Killing the mes­sen­ger in a war against words

Just Words...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

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.

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