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International Press Freedom Day, May 3

International Press Freedom Day, May 3

TORONTO – In any type of social organization, transparency and eternal vigilance over decision makers is the only guarantee against misuse or abuse of position.

Individuals, and, by extension, collections of like-minded types (interest groups, associations, parties, factions etc.) are not necessarily evil, ill-intentioned or inherently corrupt, but the temptations to protect and promote one personal interests over those of the collective are frequently too strong for mere mortals to resist.

That watchful eye, even if superficial in oversight, occasionally penetrating and critical analysis, is role and duty societies concede to what we call the Press – a trained, professional group of mem and women who try to make sense of the decisions that those in positions of authority would have us accept.

Its role may result in moments of “discomfort”, but it “keeps people honest”. It’s not easy; sometimes very unpleasant when it is truly objective. But, it is always necessary if “matters of state” are to remain in the hands of the people.

Ancient Hellenic societies developed the concept of community affairs belonging to the “demos” – the people at large, democracy – as opposed to the oligarchs (the few, privileged) or the monarchs (the singular).

Romans developed an elaborate republican (“res publica” – the public’s interest) to protect against abusive tendencies of monarchs and dictators (tyranny by a strong man).

Both societies recognized the “power of the written word”, the need to communicate goals and the importance of valuation of objectives along the way.

The higher up the ladder Men and women of influence climbed, the more prone they became to obfuscation of, or lying about, the facts, or to confuse personal interests with those of the collective. Their “skin gets thinner”.

It is the same today.

No matter the society, those on the inside want to control the message. Distort it if need be. Their motivation must always be met with a healthy dose of skepticism.

It is especially important to be wary in modern, fi rst world countries like the one we enjoy. The Press is like the proverbial “canary in the mine”. Its task is being made increasingly difficult by those who stand to benefit by suffocating its voice.

Political figures are wont to exaggerate, to pu. up their achievements and to deflect from their failings. Just the other day an American Daily pointed to 10,000 lies that the President has already utter in less than two years while in offi ce. British oddsmakers have stated to predict he will surpass the 22,000 mark by the time the next election rolls around.

One indication of the signifi – cance of the is to be found in a startling statistic by the same paper pointing to the widening disparity between the “have and have less: in the seventies, the managerial class earned 30 times that of the average wage earner; today the diference is 300 to one.

Who’s been looking? Where are we headed?

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