Canadian ethnic media commemorate World Press Freedom Day
Pay tribute to 117 colleagues killed in the line of duty
By Veronica C. Silva
The Canadian ethnic media recently commemorated World Press Freedom Day by remembering colleagues in the industry who have sacrificed their lives in the name of press freedom.
The kick-off ceremony for the weeklong exhibit at City Hall was held May 5 with some of the city and province’s top officials taking time to pitch their campaign slogans to an audience of about 300 ethnic media representatives and another 100 guests.
The event was organized by the National Ethnic Press and Media Press Council of Canada (NEPMCC), whose president Thomas S. Saras, led tributes to the journalists who were killed last year.
“Today’s event is a celebration of the virtues we do believe in this profession and at the same time a memorial to those of us fallen during their efforts to see and inform the public about the event surrounding our world,” said Saras.
“Journalists are supposed to have the support of those who are controlling the democratic government of the international communities and report of the problems the citizens are facing. Unfortunately, we are living and working in an environment that over the years became increasingly dangerous for ourselves and our sisters and brothers covering the front lines,” added Saras.
He cited the report of the International Press Institute (IPI), which showed that almost 120 journalists were killed last year. This made 2013 the second deadliest year on the IPI Death Watch with Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, India, and Pakistan at the top of the list of the most dangerous countries in the world to cover.
A moment of silence was called to pay tribute to the fallen journalists.
For her part, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged the importance of ethnic media in a country where most residents have an ethnic bacground, except for the First Nations.
“What we need to understand very well is that the only people who did not come from somewhere else are aboriginal people – the First Nations. Some of us have been here five, six, nine generations or five, six, eight, nine weeks. We all came from somewhere else, except for the aboriginal people,” said Wynne as she tried to briefly describe the ethnic diversity of Canada.
And taking note of this diversity, Wynne thanked the ethnic media for their role in keeping the provincial government in touch with the ethnic communities.
But also noting the struggles that journalists face to report stories, Wynne also urged journalists in Canada to be vigilant in reporting stories that deserve attention in the country, such as aboriginals who have died or have disappeared.
“We need to be vigilant here at home and other places around the world,” said Wynne.
Also present to meet prospective voters, this time in the upcoming municipal elections, are mayoral candidates Karen Stintz, councillor, Ward 16; and Olivia Chow, former MP, NDP, Trinity-Spadina.
Stintz recognized the role of the ethnic media in helping City Council reach out to multicultural communities in Toronto.
“Because we know that Toronto is made up of neighbourhoods and the people who make up these neighbourhoods come from diverse places and we need you (the ethnic media) to help deliver the message to them,” said Stintz, who was most recently the chair of the Toronto Transit Commission before stepping down to run in the October elections.
Chow, on the other hand, found a direct connection with the ethnic media as she retold her own experience as an immigrant from Hong Kong whose family depended on the ethnic media for news about Canada and their homeland.
“I am grateful to the newspapers and TV that can bring the news to people who may not be able to understand English to give them news from their country of origin and also let them know what’s happening in their country, in their city, their community,” said Chow.
The weeklong exhibit at the City Hall lobby featured more than 200 publications from the different ethnic media in Canada.
World Press Freedom Day is held worldwide every May 3 to recognize the challenges that journalists worldwide undergo to defend the truth.
It has been a tradition of the NEPMCC to celebrate the occasion with a weeklong exhibit.