Friday 21 October 2016

Threats against the media are an affront to society

Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30

How Independent News and Media fearlessly reported the outrageous gangland shootings
How Independent News and Media fearlessly reported the outrageous gangland shootings

In the burgeoning ganglands the automatic weapon is the arbiter of right and wrong. Fear is the oxygen that sustains the criminal underworld. But no decent society can tolerate this. Where life is worthless and money is the only thing of value, there is no moral currency.

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Journalists frequently find themselves in uncharted waters, far from the comfort of the shore. Indeed, it is a luxury for a reporter to find themselves swimming with the tide; more often, the currents are against them.

All the same, the idea that cold-blooded threats will stop the media from doing its job is delusional. Reporters represent the public. They are the eyes and ears of the man and woman who does not have the privilege, nor the opportunity, to go after the story - whoever, whatever, or wherever that story may be.

There is nothing grandiose or prestigious in the business of collating facts. But there are few things that are more important in order to check the ambitions of the powerful, or the subversive. The media does not pretend to be the absolute voice of the people; to do so would be presumptuous.

But it does attempt to provide accurate accounts, submitting itself to the judgment of the public.

What it can not do is submit to the bully at the end of the barrel of a gun. Journalists must be enabled and protected in their duties. Disclosure is their business, just as concealment is that of the criminal.

For a reporter, this frequently means looking into dark, intimidating corners.

And within that darkness there is nothing so dangerous as someone who would wish to shed some light.

That is where the courageous Veronica Guerin found herself almost two decades ago. She refused to be cowed by cold-blooded criminals. Her brave attempt to shed some light was to cost her life. Her death was an attack on every freedom that our State stands for.

And our State hit back. The gardaí made sure that no effort was spared. Yet scarcely 20 years later, journalists are once more targets of threats within this newspaper group.

Every attempt to tame the media or subvert the truth is an affront to our country and its people. It is a challenge to law and order and therefore cannot be allowed to go unmet.

The importance of the freedom of a journalist to do their work is uniquely recognised by the courts.

Their freedom is in lockstep with all those who believe in civil liberties. All democracies protect and cherish free speech as a fundamental right.

As the statement from our Editor-in-Chief points out: "Our media group will not be deterred from serving the public interest and highlighting the threat to society at large posed by such criminals."

Those with something to hide are the only ones intimidated by, or frightened by, the truth.

There is no length to which they will not go to shield themselves from the consequences of its exposure. Such bullying is ultimately devoid of purpose as, no matter how menacing the threats, there is no known hiding place from the truth.

And not even an AK47 can arm the most ruthless against the facts.

Irish Independent

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