Too important to ignore

World Press

World press freedom day materials are available for free use online

Yet, most do nothing to promote its continued importance to readers, or the wider communities they serve.

Consequently, it barely rates in the consciousness of readers or most newspaper colleagues.

We’ll only miss it when it is gone. Unless you are in Fiji, where every citizen knows they have suffered the suppression of censorship through dictatorship.

Small groups of executives from within the industry continually fight skirmishes that have the potential to escalate into full on assaults on a free press.

Each fight seems to be harder than the last.

We butt heads on court suppression orders, manipulative parliamentary rules designed to quell full disclosure, the right to publish sport reports to mobile phones, or take photographs at rock concerts . . . and more.

It is vogue – thanks to phone hacking in the UK – for governments to use the changing face of print and digital media as reason to reassess whether the media needs to be controlled, and how they might do it.

The Kiwis are now staring down the barrel of government sponsored regulation designed to capture new and old media alike; all conveniently boxed up in a report from the Law Reform Commission.

In Australia, a similar outcome cannot be ruled out, even though major newspaper publishers have signed up to what can be summarised as legally-binding independent regulation under a new-look Australian Press Council.

(West Australian Newspapers bailed on the Press Council – disappointing? Very. At least the editor-in-chief was ramrod straight with all of us who tried to change his course. But he’s left the door ajar for government interference.)

And now, in Australia, we await the release of the government-instigated Convergence Review, whose interim report paid no attention to press freedom (indeed, I doubt the authors bothered to consider its existence in concept or reality).

So, if there was a year where editors and general managers can afford to ignore World Press Freedom Day, well . . . this ain’t it.

Please, put some of that precious newsprint aside, and articulate to your audience the most fundamental of our industry’s beliefs – that press freedom is essential to our society and democracy.

If you don’t say it, no one will.

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