The guardians…of truth and freedom

Today Time Magazine named four journalists and a newspaper as its 2018 Person of the Year for what the magazine said was standing up for the truth in the face of persecution and violence.

Time calls the group “the guardians” and certainly the words “…of truth and freedom” should be added. The group is made up of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed a few months ago when he visited the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey to complete the documents to get married. He was killed by the Saudi government after criticizing them – his fiancé was waiting outside; Mary Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines who has been arrested – she too was critical of her government; Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been held in Myanmar for a year; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland where five people were shot and killed at their office this summer.

According to the Associated Press, in 2018 as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered. Time’s Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal said, “They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world who risk all to tell the story of our time.”

The statement is true, whether you are a war correspondent, a journalist in a foreign country critical of the government or hometown community journalist. They risk it all for truth and the freedom to tell the truth.

What calls them? It is a calling indeed that not many people are equipped for. A journalist subjects themselves and sometimes their family to persecution from many and appreciation from few for little money in an effort to inform their audience what is happening around them in ways they may not see. They are holding the beacon of light and shining it in the darkest places and in every corner of government to hold them accountable. They are holding the hands of the people they meet through tragedy and weeping silently while they tell the sad yet meaningful story. They are celebrating the wins of your children on sports teams as if these children are their own. They are covering the stories of the nonprofits as they work to make our communities better and then volunteering their time to help make that difference. Journalists are talking to parents about the most difficult subjects – online safety, sex trafficking, bullying. They even have stared into the eyes of a man at his own execution ordered by a judge – coming away with mixed emotions. They are the eyes and ears of every community, seeking the truth and reporting it so that citizens remain informed and educated.

The Capital Gazette in Annapolis was like any other news room across America – filled with journalists tapping out their stories on their keyboards and trying to meet their deadline. But it wasn’t just any newsroom that would spill their blood on that June day – it was theirs. Five people, including four journalists, were gunned down. The man that stands accused of murder has pleaded not guilty. But in the end, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith are dead. Reportedly, the man held a grudge for years after the newspaper published a story about him. So, he killed five people.

There are inherent dangers in life…you could be killed in a car accident tomorrow…or not. It is the chance you take when you get behind the wheel of your car and drive. But you make a choice to do it and assume the risk every day because there is a big benefit attached to it – getting where you need to go in a timely fashion. Journalists around the world – and even in our newsroom – pick up their pens and cameras every single day by choice and assume the risk – not because there is a benefit to them, but because there is a benefit to you the reader. They will go to the meetings and look the government in the eye, they will stand up to the bad guys for you and they will tell the stories of our life.

The journalists on the cover of Time Magazine have given their life or their freedom for holding their government accountable. They represent all journalists all over the world and the fight they bring for the truth, for exposure and for the story. They are the guardians of truth and freedom.

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