When too much is amplified, you tend to hear nothing. The world may be going about its business as it must, but it is doing so more anxiously. With so many more questions than answers, anxiety is easily exploited. We see how an invisible enemy can bring even the most powerful country in the world to a standstill.
Insidiously, Covid-19 creates chaos, stripping away liberties. If you wanted a metaphor for the contrarian ways we are being forced to live, it would be hard to look past US President Donald Trump. The leader of the free world has no qualms in putting a gag on “the lame-stream media”. Yet he is accused of being too proud to put a mask on himself. But, to their credit, the American media insists on having its voice heard.
This week another menacing contagion on these shores has attempted to quiet vital voices. The journalists at three newspapers on this island have received sinister warnings. Their publishers joined with the National Union of Journalists this week to stand up for press freedom in Northern Ireland. “We will not be silenced, democracy will not be scared off,” was their resolute response to intimidation.
Pseudo-terrorists who use bogus ideological credentials don’t get a final say.
Journalists do not like being part of the story. When they become so it is because they have no choice. Veronica Guerin’s life was brutally snuffed out by thugs who thought they were bigger than the law.
They found they were not. Gardaí, revolted and shocked as the rest of the nation, did not rest until justice was served.
They and the PSNI do all in their power to protect. Lest there be any doubt, the trigger-men will not get in the way of the story.
When ‘Sunday World’ journalist Martin O’Hagan was shot dead, no effort was spared to go after the culprits.
Those who sneak about in the darker regions of the criminal underworld do not decide what the public knows. They may not wish to be disturbed, but disclosure is the business of media. Finding out is vital to keeping the public informed, and democracy alive. Truth is seldom readily available, it must be quarried out. And sometimes its reverberations can be explosive. But we will not be lightly frightened off.
The globe feels a little tilted on its axis right now, but journalists, like everyone else, are trying to do their work. There have always been those who want to operate in darkness and shadow, using the cloak of threats and intimidation. We, and our colleagues in journalism, have seen their like before and faced them down. We will do so again.