The World Press Freedom Day comes at the time when approximately a third of the population of the world is in lockdown, economies have grounded to a halt, while the global community is fixated on defeating the viral pandemic—coronavirus, the cause of the disease COVID-19. At this historical conjuncture, doctors, nurses, cleaners, care workers, drivers, and elements of the working class in essential areas of production ensure that the wheels of society continue to turn while the assault against the virus continues full throttle.
Journalists, too are on the frontline reporting the decimating effects of the virus, informing the people about physical distancing, asking them to follow the science, the protective protocols, and supporting communities to ensure we eliminate the virus. In this day of COVID-19, journalists are even more vital as they hold governments to account for their management of the pandemic, force answers out of state actors, elevate the concern of the masses of the people—from economics to hygiene. These are essential services to the community and society they are performing. And we must commend them for it.
Notwithstanding, some conducts of media houses, journalists, and elements of the press are found wanting, egregiously scandalous. It is these acts that we must call out on this day of World Press Freedom. Conservatively, it is estimated that five major media conglomerates controlled over 90 percent of the global information flow. In Britain, for example, four companies publish the highest-circulating papers.
Little wonder why the corporate media moved heaven and earth to oppose moderate social democrats like Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, as they oppose the ravaging contradictions generated in the economic and political order because of neoliberal globalization. It is in the coverage of the erstwhile Labor leader and the utter misrepresentation of Sanders and what he represents that one sees the relationship between big media and big capital, transnationals and monopolies—and the interplay between them and how that influences the news. The mainstream media treat issues such as progressive tax with visceral condemnation, limiting the possibility of any progressive change, which would make the elites pay a little more to address the imbalances of society.
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, through their careful study of the relationship between the mainstream media, big capital, big pharma, the military-industrial complex, and the interplay which then set the content of the media houses as manufacturing consent. Here these two eminent authors argued that the manufacturing of consent is “effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by relying on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.”
Washington Post owned by Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg owned by Michael Bloomberg, COMCAST-owned MSNBC, Disney-owned ABC News and CNN owned by AT &T are all media institutions in the service of capital and world imperialism. It is these media institutions that would call Mohammed Bin Salman a reformer, even though he is a psychopathic bloodsucking idiot whose hands are stained with blood, including the blood of Jamal Khashoggi who was bone-sawed [to death] in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2, 2018, by Salman’s death squad. But Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, and progressive forces who opposed the hegemonic neoliberal economic system get distorted and are calumniated as dictators. This point is important to see through the fog of misinformation and machinations of the corporate media in the pay and service of world imperialism.
On the day marking the celebration of World Press Freedom, a red salute to progressive journalists—martyred or alive. Journalists must be objective, but they should not be impartial. They must be objective in reporting the news, but partial in standing with the oppressed and working people. Freedom of the Press must not be the freedom to be in the pay of capital, not freedom for austerity, deregulation, privatization, and freedom for the parasitic ruling class to continue wreaking havoc on society, especially in countries in the periphery of capitalism.
In Liberia, it cannot be that some journalists are lay readers, echo chambers, and stenographers of the neocolonial regime producing and reproducing defense of the status quo. When the government thinks the press is for sale, it treats it with utter contempt and tide roughshod over it because the press has a buying price. We cannot let this go on if Liberian journalists should play their rightful role. And this is even more relevant as the Weah government has gone to war with the press, with several media persons—dead and alive—victims of the cruel whips of the administration. Henry Costa’s Roots FM was shut down on trumped-up charges. Punch FM owned by the critical journalist Patrick Honnah has been denied access to the broadcast. Many critical voices in the media have retreated to self-censorship in fear of the brutal repression of tyranny. The late Journalist Zenu Miller was beaten by state security. The internal bleeding he suffered from the brutality is linked to his death. Homage to this martyred fighter.
It would be a slander of history as we celebrate World Press Freedom without recognizing few press people are in maximum prisons for doing their job, by holding world imperialism and dictatorial regimes to account for their stewardship. Julius Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is holed in the Belmarsh Prison on grounds that he exposed the hypocrisy of American imperialism and reported on war crimes committed by that callous empire against the innocent people o Iraq and Afghanistan. The privacy activist and Software developer in Ola Bini has been harassed and holed in Ecuador by the Moreno government because of his ties to Julian Assange. From Orban’s Hungary to Modi’s India to Duterte’s Philippines, and to Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt, to Bolsonaro’s Brazil crowned up by Trump’s mistreatment of the media, to Johnson’s attempts at suppressing critical media—these leaders who have formed the reactionary internationals continue to harass, bully, and suppress journalists who don’t toe their line.
And finally, we stand with all journalists who stand with the working people and the oppressed of the world. We suffer with these journalists whose reportage are driven by the sensibilities of solidarity and their cause of suffering humanity. Without beating around the bush, journalists have a social responsibility not just to report the truth, but to stand with working people and the marginalized sectors of society.
Mosonda Press Bureau
Main Photo: Slain Liberian journalist Zenu Miller