Today, we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, an annual reminder to governments to respect and uphold freedom of expression. It also serves as a platform to raise awareness and support journalists targeted by their governments.
A day that many might view as just another Monday means so much more to journalists and members of the media across the world, as it acknowledges not only the importance of the media, but also serves as a day of remembrance for the journalists who have lost their lives while working in the field.
The inception of World Press Freedom Day came from a proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 that was created after a recommendation at the twenty-sixth session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) General Conference in 1991.
This year the conference theme is, “Information as a Public Good”. The theme, “underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information. It calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content,” Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, said in a statement.
At a time when the media is under constant scrutiny and accused of being nothing but “fake news,” it is important to recognize what we are working towards and who we are working for.
As an editorial board, we understand the benefits we are given and appreciate the opportunity presented to us to report in an honest and fair manner. We don’t have to worry about walking on a thin line in regards to being critical of Orange Coast College when it's necessary to be critical.
Accountability matters more than anything in journalism, and having the ability to go against the college's opinions is something that World Press Freedom Day celebrates.
We aren't here to engage in fear mongering or to create controversy. Instead, our job is to tell the story as it is happening and engage with credible sources to report what actually happened.
There were times in this semester that we took stances that were critical of the college, not because we wanted to, but because we have to. It is our responsibility – one that was given to us and protected by the First Amendment and celebrated by World Press Freedom Day.
Out of the 180 countries and territories evaluated in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, 73% either blocked or impeded journalists, according to the News Literacy Project. Getting access to reliable news has only become harder during the COVID-19 pandemic and mistrust between journalists and the public has continued to grow. In the United States, our press freedom ranking increased just one slot to 44 out of the 180 countries evaluated.
However, this data doesn’t include the growing number of attacks against the media that have occurred this past year. In 2020, there were approximately 400 assaults and 130 arrests of journalists in the United States.
With public mistrust growing at an alarming rate, it’s important to remember who we represent.
Coast Report has been at the center of all things news at Orange Coast College since 1948. We will continue to “serve our audience well by providing fair, well-rounded, unbiased coverage of the entire campus community, using the highest standards of journalistic writing and shared ethics,” as stated in our mission statement.
On this World Press Freedom Day, we would like to acknowledge the freedoms granted to us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and how that allows us to better serve the public by reporting the facts, giving voice to the public and sharing information transparently. We are grateful for the freedoms that we have, but well aware that there is still room for improvement and our ranking of 44 out 180 speaks to that reality. It is incumbent upon us all to defend our First Amendment freedoms. Censorship is a growing threat to us all and a serious threat to a healthy and vibrant democracy. We stand with the journalists of the world and we celebrate this day for the right that we enjoy to speak truth to power and speak for the powerless.