If not for them, the newspapers would be just papers. If not for their passion and hunger for truth, all news would be as mellow as fairytales. It is their perseverance that uncovers the truth buried in high-safety zones, away from the public’s reach. Yet, with the bravery, there comes the eternal risk of death, intimidation and abduction, to which a journalist cannot simply shake his/her head and say, ‘No, thank you.’
Any aspirant youth who walks into a press office, does not do so under the illusion that he will be entitled to a pay as high as that of a bank employee. Whatever the tide that lands him/her there, does not promise perks, privileges, or recognition, other white-collar professions provide in abundance. The highest ever dividend a journalist can earn is a cemented byline and the positive change he/she can bring into society, through constructive reporting.
Contrary to the misconception planted by an intolerant few, journalists are no troublemakers. In fact, whatever the battles, their profession calls on them to fight; they do so in the name of the readers. The truth they uncover may not be in the most sophisticated state. It may upset many who act the goody-two-shoes in front of the public when in reality they are more black than white. Hence, it is them, who in fear of the curtain-pull, pass a death sentence on journalists. It is their blinding power that muzzles the mouths, freezes the pens and declares them to be doomed for eternity.
Ours is a free press, charred by many fires, seared by many bullets and rendered abandoned by a few abductions. Yet, ours is a fraternity that digs out new tunnels to reach the readers when the official entrances are barricaded with censorship. When it comes to enlightening the people and supporting them to make the right choices, Twitter does not just tweet, and Facebook is not just a pretty face. It is this silent battle that demands the readers to be a better-informed nation; for, through their pragmatism lays the road to stabilise democracy, end all impunities and safeguard rights of everybody.
A journalist does not expect a reader who skims through the daily paper with his morning cup of coffee to understand the numerous obstacles the former has to overcome. He/she thinks it is necessary to endure the pain of the burns, when delivering hot cakes. The ultimate wish of a journalist however, is that the faithful reader will never compromise his/her right to information, nor will he/she be silent at its violation.
The media fraternities around the world today celebrate the Press Freedom Day with the universal hope that, media will have strength to transform societies. Sri Lanka however has a long way to go given the number of brutalities and red-tape that have stood between the journalists and the public. Ranked 163 in the Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 released by the Reporters without Borders, ours is a steep climb uphill. Every pen is raised by the people for the people; every foot that is raised to trample the pen, is to trample the people.