Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For What It’s Worth

By Antonia Koop
Open letter to my friends and fellows who are not journalists:

30 Journalists died in an ambush on November 23,2009 in Maguindanao, Central Mindanao, Philippines, along with 27 other people who joined the family of a local politician for the filing of candidacy for the upcoming 2010 elections. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) qualified the incident as the worst attack on journalists recorded so far in journalism history. The event has come to be known as the Ampatuan or Maguindanao Massacre.

The brutal and brazen attack once more raises the most crucial questions we as journalists have to face:
Is there any story worth dying for? And for what do we journalists risk our lives?

Being a good journalist has never been easy. In many countries the job is poorly paid, journalists are harassed or threatened. And in too many places reporters get killed, such as in the Philippines. Journalists often work in areas known to be dangerous. We ask questions that put us into trouble, that leave us hated and disliked by those who attempt to hide their actions and intentions from public.

Many people look at us as if we were leeches who crave for the blood of others to feed their newspapers’ sales. We are seen as tool, easy to abuse for polishing an image, for gaining fame, for outing an opponent by spreading scandals.

Even our own business driven companies often treat us journalists as cheap producers of reality entertainment for bored and disinterested masses waiting to be fed with delusion and potato chips on their living room sofa.

And then once in a while we become essential as instrument to be used to gain political power in the campaign for an upcoming election.

What a dirty business. What a poor job.

So, why do we risk so much, risk our lives our families, our personal well being to do that?
Many believe journalists are natural adrenaline junkies, adventurous, restless folks who crave for experiences beyond the limit. And to a certain extend those people are right. But one can satisfy those needs by other less dangerous means, such as bungee jumping or sky diving. So there must be more to the journalism profession than adventurism.

The good ones among us deeply believe that journalism is a damn important profession.
In this interconnected interdependent world we live in, information is power and those who control information control the world.

In this world journalism is the only institution that has the single task to provide the public with independent, reliable information. Our task as journalists is to allow everybody access to vital information, because only if each member of society truly knows what is happening out there, people have a chance to make good choices for their own lives. We believe that journalism as an institution is essential to keep every member of society accountable for their actions and is thereby crucial defense for the people in our modern interest driven societies against abuse, lies and manipulation.

We have painfully experienced what happens if this important instrument of accountability fails; in Rwanda where the media became agitator for the genocide, in fascist Germany, where people were all too willing to believe a propaganda that paved the way for killing Millions and devastated not only Europe but affected large parts of the world. In war zones all over the world journalists got targeted and killed to shut out the worlds attention. Until today we have seen an increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery driving some of the most suppressive or problematic situations in the world.

Without the courageous efforts of independent journalism we have no chance to distinguish between what is true and what is fake, what to believe and what to question.

This is why being a journalist is so challenging. Why we always have to do our best despite danger, difficulties and dislikes. Despite being harassed and threatened and having missed another birthday of our kids because of a road accident, a bombing, a political clash, a burning chemical factory. Despite becoming ourselves victims of a system that doesn’t like to have reporters around to tell the truth.

If we journalists fail, you live your lives blindfolded.

We are not journalists for our own fun, for travel and adventure.
We do this job for you people out there. For the politicians who try to truly lead their cities, regions and countries. For business that aims to be successful without leaving burned earth behind. For public administration that truly aims to serve the peoples needs. And for each and every member of a society that tries to exist in abundance, peace and security.

By keeping all stakeholders of society accountable, journalists protect your rights.
And now we need you to protect us.

Do you choose to be a bored and disinterested mass that doesn’t care? Or do you choose to claim your right to be concerned about what is happening around you, willing to ask who defines the rules, willing to claim your right to speak out?

The killing of a journalist is not an internal problem of the media.
It is concern for each and every member of the public, of a society that chooses to have a say.
So now is the time to claim back your right to know and your right to be heard.

It is time to protect your journalists.
Or you will lose us.
One after the other.
To danger or temptation wrapped in bribes, political power or the promise
of an easier way of life and earning.

Now it is time also for you to stand up and say:



Baca Selengkapnya...