May 3rd: World Press Freedom Day

At the center of our freedoms is the ability of journalists to report events and for the citizenry to learn about the workings of their government. The need for press freedom is so great, and the attempts by some governments to curtail the work of journalists so egregious, that May 3rd is designed as World Press Freedom Day.

It comes as no surprise that this day, and what it represents matters to us all since it is a foundational fact that journalists do the valued work of democracy. For those who work in places where rights are fewer this day is a reminder to those governments that they must be aware that the rest of the world is watching. This day is about recognizing the universal truth–whether or not it is applied in practice in each nation–that there must be a commitment to press freedom.

Also, this day is called to our attention so we can honor those who died in the line of duty when gathering and reporting the news. In addition, we need to be reminded about those reporters who are being held captive for simply doing their jobs.

One of those is an American, Austin Tice.

In May 2012, Austin Tice chose to go to Syria as a freelance journalist. Austin went to tell the story of the ongoing conflict there and its impact on the ordinary people of Syria. In August 2012, Austin made his way just south of Damascus to write his final pieces. He planned to depart for Lebanon on August 14, three days after his 31st birthday. He got into a car in the Damascus suburb of Darayya to make the trip, but shortly after leaving was detained at a check point and has been held in Syria since.

Among the list of detained is Egyptian Solafa Magdy.

Solafa Magdy, a freelancer multimedia journalist, reported on politics and human rights and contributed to the last-standing independent newspaper in Egypt, Mada Masr. She was detained and charged with membership of a banned group and spreading false news. She has been imprisoned for more than four months with reported health issues.

We need to care about these people who are held captive and think of them as individuals. Also on this day, we need to realize that too many leaders of dictatorial, authoritarian, or populist governments do all they can, day in and day out, to bend and break journalists. These autocrats do all in their power to suppress information.

Therefore, it is vital we stand up for independent journalism and the fine women and men who undertake that most noble of professions.