Time magazine's Person of the Year selection is another opportunity to defend the First Amendment and a free press.
Two journalists jailed while investigating a massacre. A journalist arrested while covering a dictator. Journalists mowed down by a gunman while they sat at their desks, doing their work, putting out their newspaper.
And a journalist whose investigative work criticized a crown prince, and whose last words spoken on this earth were, "I can't breathe." Then there were screams, and the sound of a saw.
Time magazine has called them "The Guardians" who fight against the War on Truth. And they are Time's 2018 Person of the Year.
These brave reporters knew the risks they faced. This year alone, 52 journalists have been murdered around the world. The 21,500 members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) pledge to adhere to a Code of Ethics that recognizes the essential nature of a free press as an integral part of a democracy. Public relations professionals recognize that we are dependent on a free press and rely on it as we speak honestly and fearlessly on behalf of ourselves, our companies, clients and causes. A free press provides citizens access to information and opinions so they can make their own judgments.
In August, PRSA led a group of 15 global organizations of professional communicators in declaring support for journalists who "bravely seek the truth, focus on facts, and hold government, business and other institutions accountable."
Today, we salute Time for its recognition of this special group of journalists who represent their colleagues who seek truth and put their livelihood and their lives on the line to bring that truth to us.
Among those journalists are the following recognized by Time:
- Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar after investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims;
- Maria Ressa, editor of a Philippine news website renowned for its criticism of the country's president, now out on bail on bogus charges of tax evasion;
- The staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, including five members killed in a June shooting in their newsroom, as they worked on stories and pursued their role as truth-tellers;
- Saudi journalist, U.S. permanent resident and Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, whose writing was highly critical of the Saudi government, was in exile in the U.S. before he was murdered in October at Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate.
We must stand for them and all of their colleagues around the globe.
We challenge our members, and the leadership of our chapters across the country, to find ways to join the ongoing efforts to actively protect and support a free press. Whether it is simply speaking up in defense of professional journalism during a conversation where the pejorative "fake news" term is mentioned, or supporting the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, or convening a chapter meeting discussion about how a free press is an essential part of our work, or sharing concerns with politicians and elected officials or speaking to students in middle or high school or on college campuses…there is no shortage of things that we can do individually and collaboratively to make a difference.
As the stories of the journalists recognized by Time painfully demonstrate, time is critical. There is no more time to wait and hope things will get better. Not when journalists are in jail, under arrest, being shot to death in the newsroom of an American daily paper, or otherwise murdered. This is a serious threat to a civilized society and our own profession. Journalists need and deserve our support. Let's, as a profession, make sure they know they have it.