May 3 marked the the United Nation’s World Press Freedom Day, and across the globe, people were meeting to talk, think and come up with remedies to issues facing the media landscape today.
The day is also about working to find solutions and advocate for change, especially in cases like those of the 24 journalists who were just handed prison sentences in Turkey. Turkey is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to freedom of the press. The RSF lists them at 157th on their press freedom index. It’s also a time to remember those who have been lost on the job, a particularly poignant topic on any day, but made even more tragic following the deaths of 10 journalists in a single day on April 30.
The day should also be a time to take a look at the situation closer to home. While journalists in Canada don’t face the dangerous threats of those who work in the more unstable parts of the world, there are particularly nefarious trends lurking under the surface that journalists must contend with in this country.
In particular, this country’s freedom of information laws, both in the upper levels of government and at the municipal level are in desperate need of reform. Instead of acting as a tool for citizens to take a look behind the curtain at how their government operates, these FOI systems are instead being used as roadblocks, and a tool to keep information secret.
This year, the theme of the UN’s International Press Freedom Day is a rather fitting one, titled “Keeping Power in Check,” which as information from the UN states, “highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and explore legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online.”
The role of journalism has long been seen as a mirror for society to see itself and how it operates. When it comes to freedom of information, if the City of Oshawa is to look into that mirror, they may not like what they see. In 2017, the provincial riding of Oshawa topped the list of complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman for the 2016/2017 reporting period, including 36 at the City of Oshawa alone.
The virtues celebrated and advocated for on International Press Freedom Day are important ones, but they cannot just be a one off. These goals of pushing for information, press freedom, and holding power to account must be ones that are remembered every day in this line of work.
In this day of information overload, it’s the only way that the media can continue to retain the trust of their readers.