Are journalists an endangered species?

Killed, kidnapped, tortured, persecuted! Threatened, censured and gagged! Always being silenced and, currently, in a more cruel and blatant way in these so called democratic and civilized societies.

Portugal is no exception. The April values are far gone when journalists are watched, investigated and sit on the defendant’s bench for allegedly violating the investigation secrecy, as well as when national courts condemn journalists for crimes related to violating the right to freedom of speech and free press, arbitrarily curtailing rights that are protected by the Constitution. The European Court of Human Rights has been having a different interpretation and it has sentenced the Portuguese State for violating the article 10th of the European Convention of Human Rights, even if that does not prevent certain leaders of the different branches of power (executive, legislative and judicial) from keeping on demanding a deeper scrutiny and harsher sentences regarding journalists.

What is the journalism we currently have after all, and which one do we want for the future? And what journalists?

In an era in which there is an excess of publications that create and disseminate stories in which all or part of the responsibilities essential to the profession of journalist are clearly violated, new challenges arise.

Freedom of speech is inherent to the human being. There is no questioning that. But we are talking about one other thing when we speak of Free Press and Liberty to Express and Create, which result from the profession of journalist, or when we speak of the duties and rights of the journalists. What is at stake is a set of guarantees, acknowledging and respecting norms, including those that are constitutionally (and beyond) accepted, deontological rules and ethical standards. And it is crucial to respect them.

However, there is also a legislation that cries out for changes. Journalists must stand firm to fight for a long-awaited changing of laws.

Being granted or holding a journalist professional license (or an equivalent one) is to bear certain responsibilities. We cannot consider ourselves as the owners of all the rights if we don’t abide by the duties.

It is an everlasting challenge. We are not indifferent to crisis or to all the risks and turmoil. Companies need to reinvent themselves in order to become (or keep on being) profitable and to continue to pay journalists and all the other professionals that work for them.

We must find, as one, ways and means to fight misinformation, fake news and false media outlets. Nevertheless, in no moment shall we lose our compass.

We are journalists and our profession is a regulated one. It is independent. Reputation, transparency and accuracy are also achieved by credibility. We must take care of each other so that we can take care of those who matter the most – the public! Those who read us, those who watch us, those who listen to us, those who follow us. Those who trust and believe in us.

It is for them that we are here, as the gatekeepers of Democracy that we also are. That is why, in the name of journalists and journalism, we accept this honorable mission of legitimizing and accompanying the journalism professionals.

Let truth not vanish in time or memory because, as John Milton said, “so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength.”


Licínia Girão