Killing the messenger in a war against words
I’m not sure why people want to become a journalist because it has nothing to do with the truth, being creative or becoming wealthy.
More often than not people think they can do a better job than you, believe they know the ‘real’ facts or just brush you off as a lazy journalist. This invariably means they don’t like the reporter being impartial or asking an awkward question.
I try to avoid saying I’m a journalist in polite company, but when I do let it slip the retort is usually: “So you make stuff up then?” You got me.
Journalists are no longer seen as upholders of the fourth estate, keeping the politicians, industrial cheats and bad employers in check. Gradually, news hacks are seen as part of the problem that is poisoning society with fake news.
Social media rules the world which means news becomes instant, ready to cook and serve up in many different ways. Donald Trump strides Twitter with his wisdom like a modern-day Spanish Inquisition denouncing his critics as purveyors of fake news.
As the world of Trump is absolutely perfect, anyone who questions the narrative is automatically labelled as a fake news renegade. So, news media that believe the sayings of Trump are more outlandish than his combover will be attacked with both barrels from Washington’s nasty brigade.
Dealing with words has always been risky, now it has become ever more dangerous because the first person that gets shot by the establishment is the messenger.
Societies are becoming less pluralistic and more authoritarian as tolerance for dissent is marginalised, this is only compounded by a trend for extremism in thought among the crusaders for their particular brand of populism, religion or politics.
Everyone in the public sphere has an agenda and reporters are usually caught in the middle – and if a politician or a celebrity is caught doing or saying the wrong thing, the blame will fall squarely on the media.
Cyprus is not exactly a bastion of anti-establishment scribes who go around digging up dirt on our public figures, even though there are not enough closets to hide the skeletons.
This is not a place where the paparazzi hang around street corners or outside nightclubs to catch celebrities falling over drunk or married MPs having an illicit affair with their secretary.
Cyprus is also an island where secrets are well kept because the bad guys can sleep safely at night in the knowledge that highly trained investigative journalists are not going to be sniffing around following the paper trail.
There is also no real culture of whistleblowing on the people corrupting our society, nobody wants to upset the order of things.
For politicians to get into serious trouble they either have to blow something up or get caught with their fingers in the till – it won’t be because an undercover journalist has dug a hole for them.
Cypriot journalists are not in the habit of ruffling feathers or making waves unless it’s to lambast some foreign diplomat doing backroom deals on the Cyprus problem.
The real breaking stories happen in the coffeeshops and bars where gossip and speculation thrive on the notion that facts don’t need to be verified.
But there are journalists out there fighting the good fight and they are getting killed for it.
Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and government critic walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for a marriage. No one has seen him since. Turkish officials say that he was killed by a team of Saudi assassins, who dismembered his body.
The Saudis are adamant Khashoggi left the building of his own accord. Turkish officials say they have audio and video evidence that shows Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the consulate.
Ironically, Turkey, a country that locks up hundreds of journalists on a whim, is outing the Saudis as the henchmen of free speech and democratic debate.
Another shocking case is that of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova who was raped and murdered recently.
TV presenter Marinova is the third journalist to be murdered in Europe in the past 12 months.
Her final show included interviews with two investigative journalists from Bulgaria and Romania who had been working on allegations of corruption and misuse of EU aid.
Bulgaria has the lowest score for media freedom in the EU.
So far this year, at least 43 journalists have been killed around the world as a result of their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number is outpacing last year and does not include 17 other deaths in which the motive is unclear.
Journalists are no longer seen as neutral, like the Red Cross, but as soft targets in a war against words.