World Press Freedom Day TheRecord.com - Editorials - World Press Freedom Day If you’re reading these words it’s a good bet that you rely on journalists to help inform your opinions. Words on this page are brought to you day-in, day-out because The Record’s journalists have the freedom to inform themselves, the freedom to ponder and the freedom to write. In many places around the world, and across the country, that’s simply not the case. So it’s our duty to inform you that the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers designates today to be World Press Freedom Day. According to the organization, 101 journalists, editors, photographers and other news media workers were killed in the line of duty in 2009. Canadians are among those who put their lives at risk while pursuing information for their readers, listeners and viewers. Last year Michelle Lang, a Calgary Herald reporter covering the war in Afghanistan, was killed by a roadside bomb. And a freelance journalist from Alberta, working in Somalia, was released from captivity 15 months after being kidnapped. In addition to being killed in wars zones, journalists are intimidated, beaten or killed for trying to uncover wrongdoing by despotic governments, criminal gangs or other self-serving thugs. In 1988, Tara Singh Hayer, publisher of a Punjabi-language newspaper in British Columbia who often condemned violent Sikh extremism, was shot and paralyzed by a young Sikh. Ten years later Hayer, 62, was murdered. Police said they suspected he was killed as revenge for an editorial he wrote. The murder remains unsolved. In 2000, a Montreal crime reporter survived being shot five times after writing an expose on the city’s motorcycle gangs. Late last year the editor of the Brampton-based Punjabi Post reported that three men beat him during a kidnapping attempt. A journalist at another ethnic newspaper said he worried the attackers were trying to muzzle some Punjabi press outlets in Canada. And in February, 2010, a Tamil newspaper in Scarborough was vandalized. Its editor reported receiving a phone call linking the damage to the newspaper’s interview with the president of Sri Lanka. In less dramatic fashion, Canadian governments and civil servants frequently stifle the free flow of information to journalists and, in turn, you. Last week the Correctional Service of Canada was ordered to release papers documenting the incarceration history of Ashley Smith, the 19-year-old prisoner who died at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women. Sadly the service is appealing the decision. Meanwhile, it took three years of effort by the Record before Waterloo Regional Police released to data on calls for service police received from 2005 to 2008. In its annual report on the health of free expression in Canada, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression gave a failing grade to the federal government for hurdles it has raised to accessing information. It also gave a failing grade to policing institutions for not solving Hayer’s murder. That said, reporters and editors are not infallible saints. And this editorial is not an attempt to canonize the profession of journalism. Sometimes, in some countries, journalists are tools in propaganda campaigns. We don’t need to look further than the war in former Yugoslavia where inflammatory reporting whipped-up fear and hate as tensions between ethnic groups resulted in bloodshed. Despite the abuse of facts committed by some journalists, we advocate for the free flow of information so that people can make their own informed opinions. In an age where all sorts of information — true, false and sketchy — is available to anyone with a connection to the internet, readers must invest the time and energy to judge the reliability of information. Today, at the risk of sounding self-serving, journalists need your support. While media coverage can at times be frivolous, gossipy and, at times erroneous, one of our prime missions is to shine a spotlight on wrongdoing by people in power. Stonewalling of journalists by civil servants is an affront to everyone’s right to learn what governments and civil servants are up to. And just as an assault on police, judges or witnesses at a criminal trial are assaults on the public at large, attacks on journalists are attacks on all citizens. So in support of World Press Freedom Day, we ask you take a few minutes to log onto the World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2010 / World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2010 Journalists in Exilewebsite. Learn about press freedom. You might even consider adding your name to protest letters to the presidents of China, Iran, Mexico, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. By advocating for journalists, the rights you will be fighting for are undoubtedly your own.