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Free Press honoured on World Press Freedom Day

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Western Canada’s oldest newspaper was the setting Mayor Brian Bowman used to mark World Press Freedom Day, which highlights the importance of a free and independent press.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/05/2022 (274 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Western Canada’s oldest newspaper was the setting Mayor Brian Bowman used to mark World Press Freedom Day, which highlights the importance of a free and independent press.

May 3 serves not just to support journalists but for governments and communities to reflect on the importance of press freedom, Bowman said in the atrium of the Free Press building Tuesday.

“On this World Press Freedom Day, in a world shadowed by war and persecution and disinformation, I believe it’s deeply important for the City of Winnipeg to honour the professionals who dedicate their lives to reporting the news and offering thoughtful commentary on the news,” he said.

Mayor Brian Bowman gave the Free Press the city’s community service award on its 150 year anniversary. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Free Press was recognized with the city’s community service award for 150 years of upholding those values Tuesday. The news organization faces an uphill battle, as freedom of expression and access to information are challenged around the world, Bowman said. 

“Freedom of the press is under attack… whenever (Russian President) Vladimir Putin or (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad sets out on a path of tyranny, the first deadly step is always the persecution of professional journalists — censorship, harassment, imprisonment, even murder.”

Bowman also announced the city will rededicate the press room at city hall, first opened by mayor Stephen Juba in 1964, Bowman said. 

Free Press co-owner Bob Silver, who accepted the award Tuesday, said he had never been prouder to oversee the operation of the largest independent newspaper in Canada. 

“Through all of the issues around the pandemic, every single morning, the paper was delivered to the citizens of Winnipeg. Every single day, the citizens of Winnipeg were given information. Every single day, the citizens of Winnipeg had an act of normalcy in a time where nothing seemed normal,” he said.

“Post-truth” was the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016, and that adjective has only become more ingrained in public consciousness in the years since. 

Mayor Brian Bowman presents Free Press co-owner Bob Silver with the city’s community service award on Tuesday, World Press Freedom Day. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The U.S. presidential election that same year brought in a new world leader quick to shut down accredited journalists as “fake news,” while simultaneously, manipulated or fabricated content designed to mislead became easier to spread as social media became more advanced.

More recently, news stories coming out of Russia on the war in Ukraine were flagged as disinformation campaigns by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, in an effort to help weed out purposefully misleading content for Canadians.

A statement Tuesday from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called out Russia and called on Canadians to advocate for journalists in the line of fire. 

“As Russia continues its illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, we thank the reporters on the front lines who are risking their lives to deliver accurate information to the world,” he said. “In the age of disinformation and misinformation, independent, fact-based reporting is vital.” 

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh referenced a new bill introduced last month that will require tech companies to compensate Canadian media outlets for using their news content as a chance for Canada to catch up to other areas in the world in improving access to news content.

“For the seven years that the Liberals have been in power, they have been outspoken about protecting our news media, but instead of taking action, they have chosen to protect the profits of the web giants — buying more advertising for their personal benefit,” Singh said. 

Free Press Publisher, Bob Cox (from left), co-owner Bob Silver, Mayor Brian Bowman and editor Paul Samyn. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Fee Press)

The World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, ranked Canada 19th in the world in the ability for its citizens to access accurate unbiased news coverage in 2022. Just the year prior, Canada had been ranked 14th. 

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 4:22 PM CDT: tweaks wording

Updated on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 4:50 PM CDT: Write-thru

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