Thursday night, I had the privilege of attending a gala dinner held by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. It was an inspiring night that honoured journalists – and some non-journalists – who have spoken up and fought for the right of free speech.
Among those given awards for their work were Ron Haggart, a legend in the industry who worked for The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star among others, as well as the trio of scientists – doctors Margaret Jayson, Gerard Lambert and Shiv Chopra – who blew the whistle on Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone back in the late 1990s. Mohamed Abdelfattah and Khaled al-Hammadi were also honoured for their respective, tireless work in Egypt and Yemen, where they have faced oppression and even death on a regular basis.
The evening reminded me of the context in which many of us technology journalists operate. While we spend many, many words in talking about the latest iPhone features or even the failings of telecommunications regulators, we should never forget there are journalists out there risking their lives to tell stories about basic human rights and their respective violations.
That’s not to detract from what any tech reporter does, but we do need to be grateful to these other journalists for laying the groundwork that allows us to do what we do. Such journalism helped create, protect and maintain the freedom we have here in Canada and it will, hopefully, do the same in the still-developing parts of the world.
While many people would equate organizations such as the CJFE with fighting for rights in oppressive regimes, the organization is active here too. With government obfuscation on events such as last year’s G20 and Canada’s poor showing in providing access to information, there is much to battle for within our very own borders.
This includes issues related to technology. With more nations rising up and joining the digital economy, more and more reporters will have to become de facto technology journalists, or at least tech savvy, if they are to do their jobs well.
Fighting for freedom in the advanced world isn’t necessarily done at the point of a gun, but it’s no less important. There are many ways to help out the CJFE – and you don’t have to be a journalist to do so. Check out its “take action” page to see how.