Freedom is worth the fight

It was an overcast day in the city of Copenhagen when the guided tour announced a statue to the right of our bus. 

Hans Christian Andersen, famous poet and author, died just shy of 150 years ago. As youngsters climbed his likeness for a photo, we wondered how many knew of the tales he spun or had seen the screen and live adaptations of his work globally.

The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and our personal favourite, The Emperor’s New Suit, are among the 165 works Andersen crafted. Most tales have a message easily understood by readers, causing a point of reflection and a lesson to those so inclined.

The purpose of our visit was to attend the 75th World News Media Congress, where industry leaders from around the globe convened. Discussions included the state of the press, difficulties in war zones, the number of consequential elections that will transpire in the next year and yes, the freedom to practice our craft without intimidation or fear of retaliation. 

All of those talking points took into consideration the emergence of generative AI and the continuing onslaught of digital tech giants still operating without regulation or a sense of established ethics.

Between leaving and returning this past Sunday, electoral change swept south Africa and Mexico. The United States will have its election in the fall, with Canada scheduled in 2025. The world isn’t necessarily a happy place anymore, with most countries battling inflation, an increasing disparity between rich and poor and an online eco-system of division driving a season of misinformation that may not end well.

One speaker from Poland left enough of an impression that we caught up with her the next day to congratulate her on stating unequivocally, that big tech is not our friend. We have to call them out, she said, and she is right.

To imagine the plight of journalists in less developed countries or those operating under totalitarian regimes adds a dimension that is hard to even process.

For a newspaper organization such as ours, challenges abound, although not anywhere on the scale witnessed abroad. The precarious state of the newspaper business amidst weakening advertising revenue is one thing, but we do see some seepage in expectations from a free and independent press.

Civic organizations – governments, police units, publicly funded non-profits – all have a responsibility to be transparent to the taxpayer. When we hear of meetings closed to the press or bodies unwilling to part with information it raises concerns about censorship, which is a very slippery slope once it begins.

 Freedom is worth the fight – each day, every day.