Al Seymour

The voice of freedom under siege

  • Dangerous tone: President Donald Trump has waged war against the “mainstream media” in America (Photograph by Alex Brandon/AP)

A dangerous tone in the history of the free press is being projected by someone deemed as leader of the free world, and journalists around the globe are more than deeply disturbed that so many brave men and women of the profession have given their lives to expose truths.

When politicians in powerful positions wage war against those charged with keeping people informed, real freedom begins to corrode. This is happening on a scale never seen before, mainly because communication technology has made it easy to reach large numbers of people daily with information often designed for hiding the truth.

There are big stories taking place throughout parts of the world where people are being crushed and slaughtered by vicious regimes, and journalists in many cases are restricted from entering some areas because rogue leaders would rather their deeds be kept from the bright light of the world’s free press.

The free press, who are the voice of freedom, may be under siege by the most powerful nation on earth, but good journalists will never surrender to people who choose to demean the profession simply because they fear exposure of information that the people have a right to know.

No country on this earth, large or small, which prides itself on democratic principles, should ever tolerate attacks on media. The media basically operate internationally as an instrument of seeking truth. They do this without bias, and often at the risk of losing their lives.

There will always be those who are bitterly against the free press for political or personal reasons. It is a part of the world today, and while most journalists know they are not perfect, they also know when mistakes occur most are quick to turn the spotlight on themselves. That is the standard most journalists operate with.

It should also be pointed out that all politicians do not despise the free press. However, it is essential that they choose words carefully when making public statements. It is not the job of the media to publish what they think a politician meant; it is their job to report what was actually said because accuracy is a golden rule in this profession.

Very often reaction to a public statement will depend on which side people happen to support. That is to be expected where political divisiveness is deeply entrenched. In some jurisdictions, politicians with questionable objectives thrive on feeding their supporters with what they want to hear, rather than have reality weaken that support.

In that type of political atmosphere, the waters can become so muddy that even the best journalists have a difficult time trying to spot the truth. Some politicians use that situation to promote their version of truth, knowing many people will not know the difference.

Keeping truth out front will always be a significant challenge for good journalists, as well as for politicians who still believe in the decent values of transparency, honesty and justice. Political leaders have the responsibility in any democracy to hold those qualities paramount in carrying out their duties.

Sadly, around the world, there is evidence that some leaders have fallen terribly short in that capacity. In most cases, people who follow international events closely are able to conclude who they suspect as violators of decent principles.

The American political scene is being rocked with a wave of scandals involving sexual harassment by a number of leading political figures, and although allegations are not convictions, it has opened a new era revealing behavioural patterns against women that many feel has been hidden by the powerful for far too long.

Once again the media have to shine a light of scrutiny on a subject, no matter how unpleasant it is, to ensure truth itself is not hidden. It is not a question of expecting people who hold public office to be perfect, but what most people want from public servants is the highest standard of integrity and honesty while serving.

In Bermuda we certainly have our share of political upheavals, mainly because political divisiveness often with racial tones prevents us from embracing each other fully in tackling a number of problems that exist from year to year. Both the Government and the One Bermuda Alliance must keep in mind that community problems such as crime and illegal drugs, along with corroding family values, are issues concerning all, irrespective of political persuasion.

The free press will always have a role to play in moving forward because truth is more important than politics. Politicians come and go, but truth is the anchor of a strong society. The voice of freedom globally may be under siege, but there will be no surrender.