World Press Freedom Day in Toronto

Community News & Features May 10, 2019 at 4:04 pm
Attendees stand for the national anthem

Attendees stand for the national anthem

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter

ON Friday May 3, 2019, the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada gathered at Toronto City Hall to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. The United Nations General Assembly first declared World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 1993 and every year the occasion is marked worldwide to raise awareness about defending the media from attacks on their independence and to honour journalists who died in the line of duty. This year’s theme was “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.”

Some of the issues and challenges addressed by NEPMCC President Thomas Saras and guest speakers included the persecution of journalists around the world, government propaganda, credibility and anonymity on digital media, business magnates using the media to promote their own interests, fake news and the lack of regulation and quality control on social media and the survival of Canadian media jobs.

Professor Nicholas Demos delivered a talk bringing up several important points including the changing media landscape due to technology such as satellite TV, internet publishing vs. blogging, social media vs. traditional media publishing, and internet anonymity and cryptography.

Saras

NEPMCC President Thomas Saras

Thomas Saras, NEPMCC President:

137 journalists lost their lives last year only in 2018 while they were working on their own missions. For one more year we gather here in order to pay our respects and show our solidarity to international journalists who have faced arbitrary arrest, equipment seizure, harassment and violence at the hands of the multiple groups including state security forces, protesters and armed civilians. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York, in 2019, 84 journalists lost their lives all over the globe. During the four months of 2019 another 5 paid their own lives in their own efforts to inform the public about the happenings in the international community.

So far as of today, 278 journalists are in jail for their reports. The worst is the prisoners are isolated. Journalists are denied access to their own lawyers and families on allegations of torture and abuse and the sheer lengths to which authorities will do anything to stop their own stories. Turkey and Venezuela are among the worst jailers. The National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada today stands in solidarity with all our sisters and brothers in demanding from our government to take action ensuring the wellbeing of these hardworking and innocent colleagues. We must remember always that when journalists are silenced, society and democracy suffer.

Professor Nicholas Aristotle Demos of Ryerson University

Professor Nicholas Aristotle Demos of Ryerson University

Professor Nicholas Aristotle Demos of Ryerson University:

The most important ingredient of democracy is the existence of free and fearless press. A free and independent press has the ability to call to account those with political power. In a democracy the press must enjoy complete freedom and should not be subjected to any restriction. Censoring the press means the suppression of the people’s voice. A strong democracy is an informed democracy where every citizen has the right to information, the right to think for themselves and the right to speak for themselves.

Today though, the freedom of press faces some challenges. Some of the challenges are abuse by autocrats or dictators. For instance, freedom of the press has been compromised by ideology fanatics and autocrats around the globe. Free press is under attack by governments that want to avoid the truth and journalists are harassed, sometimes even killed. Independent media outlets are shut down and freedom of expression is silenced. Many times, an autocrat or a dictator uses the press for reflecting his ideology and policies. And even John Stuart Mill warned us centuries ago that truth is the enemy of government control and that freedom of the press is the only way to ensure that our press is not marred and employ propaganda.

Section 2.b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression including freedom of the press and other media of communication. To sum up, the press is the defender and the protector of the rights of the people. But, at the same time, the press must not fail to follow its code of conduct and misuse this freedom.

George Carothers of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

George Carothers of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

George Carothers, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting:

We live in an era now where we can’t take what we see, where we access our news as the truth. And I think it underscores the importance that traditional media, newspapers, broadcasters and radio stations …the role that these institutions play in keeping our democracy alive, keeping our society connected, keeping informed. In 2019, it’s kind of tough to run a media organization. The money just doesn’t come from ad revenue anymore. It’s challenging and what’s at stake of course is a business but actually what’s at stake is the people that keep our democracy functioning, the people that keep our leaders accountable. We’ve found in our work that while journalists and media organizations are struggling across the country, the folks who are responsible for causing this crisis-most of whom reside in Silicon Valley — are actually receiving benefits from our federal politicians in the form of subsidies for advertising. It comes out to around $1.6 billion per year. And in an era where local news is disappearing, our journalists are losing their jobs, how can this be a reality that we choose?

So, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is trying to draw attention to this issue right now in the lead up to October — the federal election. We want to inform Canadians that there isn’t a fair and level playing ground at the moment and the folks who are losing out are Canadians to American businesses who make billions of dollars every month in advertising revenue that used to fund our local journalism. What we are doing in the lead up to October is connecting with folks across the country telling them about this issue and I invite you to tell your readers and your audiences about this issue as well. We have a campaign and a petition we are calling on people to sign. You can find it at https://friends.ca/choosecanada

Joe Volpe of Corriere  Canadese

Joe Volpe of Corriere
Canadese

Vanessa Wheatle, Tony Ruprecht, Thomas Saras, Maria Voutsinas and Jim Karygiannis (Vanessa Wheatle, Tony Ruprecht, Thomas Saras, Maria Voutsinas and Jim Karygiannis (Photos: MC Ramos)

From left: Vanessa Wheatle, Tony Ruprecht, Thomas Saras, Maria Voutsinas and Jim Karygiannis
(Photos: MC Ramos)