Freedom of the press

In 1998, while teaching Human Rights in Ekaterinburg, Russia, I became friends with a human rights activist, Andrey Mironov. Sadly, later Andrey, along with a photographer, were the first journalists killed in the current Ukraine conflict with Russia. It was through Andrey that I became acquainted with journalists from major newspapers including Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun.

This unique window in modern Russian history was called Perestroika, or rebuilding. It was a rare window of opportunity for Russians to have free access to the western world. Their enthusiasm and excitement were present throughout my travels in Russia. For some, I was the first American they met. It was an experience that few have in life and enriched my understanding of our world.

Through my discussions with western journalists, I became impressed by the depth of their intellect, understanding and realizing the importance of their work. I was exposed to information and insights, along with challenges to my limited world knowledge at that time.

It became clear for myself that journalism was a key to a better understanding of our world. A clearly written article with an unbiased point of view is a tool for readers to process challenging and difficult circumstances. This thinking creates an important neurological process for us to develop our minds and become more astute at forming opinions.

Television and internet media through time limitations often only have brief presentations. This does not provide the observer an opportunity to sort out the topic being discussed.

Newspaper journalists with whom I have met over the years no longer have freedoms in reporting. Russian news is censored often government controlled. There are few outlets remaining that can bring out issues relevant to Russia.

Current attempts to discredit press freedoms may easily lead us down a dark road that only further divides us, and takes away the opportunities for freedom of choice. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, it is important to review our opinions, and allow ourselves to be challenged in our views rather than to immediately dismiss others. A polarized society fractures at the base of its quality of life and the freedom to have choice. Polarized views that are supported by unsubstantiated facts, intentional misleading information, only builds a base of illusion, rather than a foundation of reality. Freedom of press is an antidote for illusions. This freedom gives us an opportunity to discern and sort out whether an opinion is supported by factual information that helps us make more informed choices. Video presentations may be a means to review an issues; however, they should include discussion, and reasoning for their views, not just opinion.

As written media is slowly disappearing, it becomes important to support those sources remaining, whether local or national newspapers. Investigative journalism is a tool offering its readers thoroughly researched topics that one cannot find in a brief television news story.

Journalists should not have to place themselves at risk in an environment that attempts to discredit them. From a historical reference, journalist freedoms that have been attacked or censored can lead to a weakened or loss of a democratic government.

Reported news that factually challenges inaccurate statements made by political figures provides an opportunity for informed choice. Ethical journalism, such as those with whom I have had the opportunity to be acquainted over the years, has provided its readers an opportunity to allow their intellect to grow and become an informed critical thinker. My years in Russia have taught me the importance of supporting rather than discrediting freedom of the press.