This speech was presented by the graduation ceremony for new Masters in media practices by the Media department, Volda University College, June 11th, 2021. This is an extended version as time did not give room for all I wanted to say!
China, Russia, Brazil. Afghanistan, Syria. Myanmar and Jemen. Countries ruled by authoritarian powers, war-torn. These kind of countries are to be find of the bottom of indexes of freedom of press.
For the last few years Norway has been at the other end of the spectrum, together with our Nordic neighbours Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
This is not something to brag about, but more so something that gives us a kind of responsibility. But we also need to remember that freedom of press is hard-won and takes time. In Norway we consider the year of 1814 as the point in our national history which freedom of print was secured by law. From the starting-point in 1814 the next century saw a development of spreading and securing the idea of freedom of press.
We may think this is a one way road. From authoritarian rule to liberal freedom. But our complicated world of today unfortunately tells a different story. Maybe are we going backwards?
Journalists and media workers have the recent years been killed in countries such as Slovakia, Malta, United Kingdom and France. We see authoritorian rule being reintroduced in countries like Poland and Hungary.
The case of the pandemic highlights in very different and disturbing ways these processes:
- Politicians spreads covid-lies to their own citizens – and citizens in other countries.
- Governments also cracks down on health-officials and whistle-blowers who tells the non-official truths about the pandemic.
- Fake-news mongers spreads conspiracy-theories, confusing the general public and eroding the general trust we all need in society and as citizens.
In this environment it is more necessary than ever to care for independent media, courageous journalism, strive for media content which is true, well made and intended for the good of society.
And I hope you as media professionals, masters in media practices, carry with you these professional and basic human values when you go out practicing in the media industries of today – and tomorrow.