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When a Crisis strikes, more often than not, Truth is the first martyr. Truth is sacrificed in the name of public interest and security if it is a national crisis. Truth is bled in the name of office decorum and company interest if the crisis hits a business. And Truth is slaughtered in the name of family honor and social values if the crisis be in the family. Even in a personal crisis, we feel more secure by adopting lie and abandoning truth. The killing of truth is done ruthlessly and without remorse at all levels.

It may look like a contradiction considering that we claim allegiance to truth by religion. Many others may not take it as religious injunction, but as a moral and social value, truth has always been upheld supreme.

The faces of the death of truth are many; some obvious and some not so obvious. Not-so-obvious methods include propagation of counterinformation, disinformation and misinformation through sponsored media, journalists, public speakers and print media. The campaigns and countercampaigns are so entangled that it becomes impossible for common man to find out the truth.

In Pakistan, it is favorite pastime anyway. We observe another interesting phenomenon here also. Public figures and self-proclaimed peoples’ representatives while sitting in opposition speak reason and logic most of the time. However, when the same men and women get into the power, they forget reason and start speaking gibberish most of the time. It looks like that Power has inherent aversion to Truth.

ICIJ – International Consortium of Independent Journalists, is a Washington D.C. based organization having collaboration in several countries. In their last communication, they have reported on two key questions from journalists from various countries.

Here are the excerpts. [Quote]

What is the biggest challenge you face in your reporting?

Stefan Melichar (Austria)

The biggest challenge …… is the economic situation, which was not good before the coronavirus crisis and has now become even worse. Investigative reporting requires time and resources – and the chance to work on promising leads regardless if they might turn out to be dead ends. Newsrooms have been shrinking for years. The economic fallout of the coronavirus now leads to further severe cost-cutting measures… Risks are high that stories, which are important, but not so easy to do, will stay untold.

Alejandra Xanic and Marcela Turati (Mexico)

First, we need to understand how to cover COVID-19 in a secure way and what we need to cover as we are not a traditional news media, but a journalistic investigative center.

There is also the challenge of obtaining information currently when government sources are not providing it. There are many complaints about hidden data and scientific debates about if things are being done correctly in Mexico or not.

Roman Anin (Russia)

I think there are two big challenges:

  • We – investigative reporters – are used to producing long stories, which take a lot of time. But COVID-19 demands us to react fast. We need to investigate with the speed of news reporters. And that’s hard.
  • Where do we get reliable data about the number of deaths? We all believe our governments but in such times it looks like there are not many other reliable sources.

Anderson Diedri (Côte d’Ivoire)

One of the biggest challenges is accessing official information. Officials are happy to use the media when they want to manipulate information for their own ends. But when we are investigating, it’s impossible to access even the most basic information because we are seen as squeaky wheels or spoilsports.

Aidila Razak (Malaysia)

Getting timely information and data. We built this page to track the pandemic because the data was released in dribs and drabs and we couldn’t see the true picture. But maintaining it now is such a pain because the data release is inconsistent…

…We are also under pressure to be extra careful to the brink of self-censorship sometimes because in this period, nationalism is at a high so any form of critical reporting on the government is construed as an attack.

How do you feel about the future of journalism in your country?

Aidila Razak (Malaysia)

It feels like we are sliding very quickly to the repressive era, after a short respite under the Pakatan Harapan Government. Things were not perfect under Pakatan Harapan, but at least we had access and were not in constant fear of police action or being shut down.

Simon Mkina (Tanzania)

The future of journalism in Tanzania is expected to be weaker than any recorded time in our history. This is because media houses have become so intimidated due to self-censorship. Many media organizations have chosen to become a loud trumpet of the regime, praising each and everything done by the state…

Francisca Skoknic (Chile)

We are in a moment that is particularly difficult because of the collapse of advertising revenue due to COVID-19. The credibility of the media has fallen, while social media networks gain ground as information channels. It is a challenging time in which independent digital media have the opportunity to position themselves as reliable sources of information.

Guilherme Amado (Brazil)

I am pessimistic about the future of press freedom in my country, at least during the government of Jair Bolsonaro. The current president doesn’t respect journalists. Actually, he harasses many of us in different ways. In interviews, he insults those who make tough questions…

Andras Petho (Hungary)

In Hungary, journalists have had a rough decade under prime minister Viktor Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian rule. He cracked down on independent outlets while at the same time he has built a powerful propaganda machine that supports him unconditionally. I’m afraid that the COVID-19 crisis will make things even worse. The already shaky financial legs of the remaining independent media can be crushed by the economic downturn…

Mary Triny Zea (Panama)

The future of journalism in Panama is challenging. The economic crisis that is affecting traditional media will be deepened as a result of the pandemic. The layoffs of journalists have increased.

Marcos García Rey (Spain)

There are two ways to respond to this question: the quality of journalism and the restrictions of doing free journalism:

  1. In Spain, newsrooms are increasingly becoming hostile to investigative or in-depth journalism… For these reasons, in Spain, the quality of journalism may decrease even more in the near future due to the economic crisis. The media bet more on breaking news, even though editors know they are offering a watery soup to the citizens. But, you know, watery soup is inexpensive, fast and does not cause stomach pains.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing about a serious economic and social crisis in many countries, including Spain. The central government, in my opinion, is deliberately strengthening state power. The problem is that there are members of the government who have a peculiar idea of what journalism and press freedom are. [Unquote]

The same issues journalists may be facing in Pakistan also. Problem is the same; Power Brings Aversion to Truth.

Aversion to Truth is not restricted to government and politics. It is rampant in the corporate world. Managers of all cadres and all shades find it very hard to listen to Truth, much less accept it. Some people say that the amount of lies that are exchanged in the corporate boardrooms are so enormous, it is a wonder why the ceilings do not collapse due to their sheer weight. It may be a little excessive comment, but the fact remains that as a person grows in corporate hierarchy, his appetite for listening to truth keeps diminishing.

In 1977, I read a novel by Nigerian author Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, titled ‘Toads for Supper’. The opening page had this statement on it.

When Children eat toads for supper it kills their appetite for meat

It must be a Nigerian proverb, the true meaning of which I do not know. But I would like to say that Lies are Toads and Truth is Meat. Those who eat toads for supper lose appetite for meat.

May we get the courage to listen to and speak truth.


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