Press Freedom Must Ring
HMA Public Relations has worked as a government contractor for city, county, state and tribal governments for decades. Our team knows from the onset that everything we do for public sector clients could be subject to public scrutiny. Oftentimes our role is to serve as a liaison between the government agency and the media. It’s not a role we take lightly.
What we are seeing around the country and the world in relation to a free press is disturbing.
The Society of Professional Journalists has reported that In Louisiana, the state’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, is suing a reporter for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune over a Freedom of Information Act request. Landry took issue with a request the reporter made for copies of sexual harassment complaints against the head of Louisiana’s Department of Justice’s criminal division. The publication’s editor said in his 40 years as an editor, he’s never seen a journalist get sued for requesting a public record.
In another attack on the media, in Poland, the government is trying to impose a new ad tax of up to 15 percent in an effort to limit the number of media outlets in the country. Publications that demonstrate favoritism toward the ruling party will get refunds from the national budget. Those not following the new rules will face financial hardships that could put them out of business.
Mariusz Pleban, president of OneMulti, our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) affiliate in Warsaw, Poland, said the private, independent Polish media recently organized a protest in which they simply went dark for 24 hours. Major publications blocked their online content with only one article available. The joint effort by the media served as an open letter to Polish government protesting against imposing the ad tax.
In Hungary, the editor-in-chief of country’s biggest independent news website was fired last summer by a close associate of the nation’s prime minister. With political interference written all over it, Human Rights Watch said the dismissal is a blow to media independence and diversity.
Dominique Biquard of Identia PR, our PRGN partner in Argentina noted, “Free media is very complicated in most countries when governments use their money-power to harm free voices.”
It cannot be understated. Anywhere in the world, without a free press, there can be no democracy.