DispatchPress Freedom News

World Press Freedom Day celebrated across Canada

By Shawn McCarthy, WPFC Past President

On the night of May 3, Niagara Falls was bathed in a spectacular multi-coloured light show to recognize World Press Freedom Day.

The Falls Illumination Board was one of several landmarks and 29 municipalities that shone the colours, issued proclamations or raised the United Nations’ flag to recognize the importance of press freedom.

The campaign is led by ink-stainedwretches.org founder Mirko Petricevic, a former Waterloo Region Record photographer, reporter and copy editor.  For the Press Freedom Day campaign, Petricevic has partnered with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and World Press Freedom Canada (WPFC).

The campaign is meant to remind politicians and their public to champion press freedom as a fundamental pillar of democracy.

“Our elected leaders have a duty to protect and strengthen the institutions that ensure a healthy democracy,” Petricevic said. “This campaign is an attempt to get them to reflect on that obligation at least once a year.”

In Ottawa, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe joined WPFC President Heather Bakken and Past President Shawn McCarthy to proclaim May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day in the city.

The proclamation read in part: “A healthy and professional news media is essential for the proper functioning of civil society and democracy at the local, regional, federal and international level.”

In a speech to World Press Freedom Canada’s awards luncheon, veteran American journalist Margaret Sullivan said journalists must be careful that in pursuing balanced reporting, they don’t give free rein to purveyors of untruths.

With a crucial election in the United States looming, Sullivan said the press faces challenges and threats, but must be clear about the stakes when one candidate, Donald Trump, is showing his autocratic leanings.

“Be very careful about the way information is presented,” she said in response to a questioner, “not to take speeches that are bound to be full of disinformation, or misinformation, take them live and say, ‘Well, we’ll fact check them later.’”