Editorial: Assert a free press for sustainability

Editorial: Assert a free press for sustainability
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Journalists once chose Mass Communication or Communication in college because these courses had few prerequisites in Math and the Natural Sciences.

That is no longer the case for journalists who need to comprehend and even specialize in Biology, Environmental Science and related subjects to report and interpret society’s complex challenges touching on survival, livability and wellness.

Last May 3, World Press Freedom Day 2024, the United Nations (UN) focused on the crucial role of journalism and every individual’s right to freedom of expression to advocate for ecological sustainability.

Legacy media may no longer be the only influencer for shaping the public’s knowledge of and opinions about climate change.

Yet, few stakeholders can surpass the press’s training, resources and opportunities for influencing citizens and communities about the importance of civic and collective accountability and responsibilities in anticipating, averting and managing natural and human-instigated disasters.

For instance, there is no question about everyone’s stake in attaining Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) 3, which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Yet, as noted in a May 3 post on the UN website, the press faces several “significant challenges” in making visible in public discourse the following issues affecting SDG 3: “supply-chains problems, climate migration, extractive industries, illegal mining, pollution, poaching, animal trafficking, deforestation, or climate change.”

These contemporary concerns are edged out from the notice of and discussion by the public by the competing barrage of distracting and entertaining content that is circulated by commercialism and consumerism, forces that do not spare governments and institutions, including the press.

The planet’s stake in an informed, activist citizenry, accountable governments and socially responsible private sector hinges on a press that will not sacrifice its commitment to democracy, dialogue and co-existence.

Owners and publishers of newspapers, radio and television stations and news websites must trust and respect the inviolable freedom of their news professionals to make news judgments based on consequence, timeliness and development for all but prioritizing vulnerable sectors.

Just wages, supportive work environment and opportunities for continuing education must be part of the compensation package for journalists, photographers, correspondents and other members of news and public affairs teams.

Given incentives such as time and resources to conduct journalism for public advocacy, the working press has potentials to educate citizens and leaders about contemporary issues through specialized long-form journalism, which, by tapping multimedia storytelling, can integrate information, context and explanation to illumine readers and viewers about local and global concerns that require stakeholdership to address over time.

The press must take the lead in the social search for answers and solutions to our shared challenges and complications.

Journalists must be at the frontlines in the fight to correct misinformation, expose the disinformation campaigns waged by parties with agenda that do not prioritize the public good, and educate citizens to be media-literate and assert their right to access of information and freedom of expression.

Journalists must work with academe, civil society and public intellectuals to promote scientific and rational discussion and open, constructive dialogue.

The rise of fake news, conspiracy thinking and historical revisionism demands that journalists do not retire or fade away in the entropy of mass self-communicators, social media influencers and spin doctors.

In the face of uncertainties over survival and civilization, journalists are needed to illuminate society in processing information, thinking and reflecting before moving into engagement

and participation.

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