Where I live, it’s common to hear people say that the U.S. government destroyed the World Trade Center. What looks to me and my reporter colleagues like a Russian invasion of Ukraine looks to them like a murky situation where no one is right or wrong. But when someone said to me over dinner that a Polish fighter plane had shot down MH17 over Ukraine, citing yet another obscure Internet “news” site, something snapped. I turned away, but the problem is still there.
Behind the scenes, proponents of freedom of expression are working to ensure that independent media is for the first time a priority in the global development goals set by the UN and its member states. As part of that push, last week more than 300 representatives from media NGOs, journalist unions and associations, civil society groups, governments, and international agencies gathered for The Bali Media Forum organized by UNESCO. The three-day meeting, on August 26-28 in Bali, Indonesia, ended with a clarion call to make access to information and free media a development priority.
Even as a growing number of authoritarian regimes crack down on the political press, business news is thriving. And the coverage is more vigorous than might be expected. Enterprising journalists are exposing mismanagement and unearthing shady business deals—and even at times exposing official corruption—that otherwise might never see the light of day. While other journalists face censorship, jail, or worse, business journalists are eschewing political stories to provide news and statistics on markets, business deals, and international trade.The expansion of economic and business journalism is not a substitute
for truly free and independent media. But it is a sign that—even in the most repressive environments—the demand for trustworthy information is strong and growing.