We wish our readers a happy World Press Freedom Day! In December 1993, the United Nations General Assembly issued a proclamation designating May 3 as a day to celebrate freedom of the press, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.
It is a day to celebrate the fundamentals of media freedom, assess the state of the press around the world, defend the media against attacks on their independence, and honor journalists who have lost their lives in the course of carrying out their work.
Acts of violence against journalists occur on a regular basis in some parts of the world. Reporters in Mexico, Central America and South America are at particular risk. The death of Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for the Washington Post, attracted worldwide attention last year. He was murdered in Turkey, an act widely believed to have been ordered and carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia.
The situation in the United States is much safer, but there still are risks. Last June a man entered the newsroom of the Capital Gazette on a shooting rampage, killing five people and wounding two others. That was not politically motivated; the newspaper had published an article about the suspect and his legal issues related to harassing an acquaintance. He filed a defamation lawsuit, which was later dismissed. Closer to home, in 2011 The Olympian and one of its photographers were the targets of vandalism at their office and his home in Tumwater. He believes he was targeted by anarchist upset that he took photos of them at public demonstrations. In an interview last fall, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau had six active investigations into threats against journalists.
We are not aware of reporters in Tacoma being threatened, but one well-placed source informed us of a local activist who was intimidated into inaction after receiving death threats. Bomb threats have been made against public meetings where hot-button issues were discussed. While unfortunate, this is not surprising considering the increasingly vicious, toxic political climate in Tacoma.
Freedom of the press is not just our right to publish a story; it is your right to be able to read it. Presenting the hard facts, no matter how uncomfortable they make some people, is at the heart of quality journalism.