On strike, in solidarity

Attacking journalism is attacking one of the main pillars of our Democracy

Today, January 10th, between 14 pm and 15 pm, and corresponding to the advance notice issued by the Journalists Union, the Sul Informação joins the strike in solidarity with colleagues at the Global Media Group and also in order to alert political power and civil society to the situation in the media sector.

The three journalists who founded the Sul Informação - Hugo Rodrigues, Nuno Costa e Elisabete Rodrigues – they know too well, unfortunately, the situation of unpaid salaries or unpaid receipts. It was precisely a situation like this that, in August 2011, made us leave the newspaper where we were working at the time. We left behind months and months of outstanding salaries and subsidies and, in Nuno's case, a year of green receipts (false green receipts...) unpaid.

For this reason (but not only!), we express our complete solidarity with our colleagues at Jornal de Notícias, Diário de Notícias, Rádio TSF (in particular, with Maria Augusta Casaca, a multi-award winning journalist who is the voice of TSF in the Algarve since the founding of this radio), and all other titles of the Group.

What is happening at the Global Media Group is a real police case, but it is also a reflection of a long crisis that the media are struggling with in Portugal. We talk more about these, because they are national media.

But the regional press has been in agony for years, as evidenced by the successive closures of titles across this country or the end of loss-making printed editions to focus on online editions, with which those responsible for the newspapers don't quite know what to do with, because they lack training and culture online.

Studies on the “news deserts” into which large parts of the national territory have been transformed confirm this slow agony.

The current Minister of Culture Pedro Adão e Silva, who has even been a commentator in the media, has never made a move to debate with the media – national, regional, local – contemporary and transparent forms of support, using as a model what has existed for many years in developed European countries, such as Sweden or Germany.

I myself asked the Minister of Culture once, during a trip he made to Marmelete, when he intended to discuss possible support measures with the regional press, but what he told me was…nothing!

For about a year now I have been involved in the organization of the 5th Congress of Journalists, which will take place in Lisbon, from the 18th to the 21st of January, next week. I myself, representing my comrades from Sul Informação, I am invited to speak on the panel about “Proximity Journalism”.

The catastrophic situation of most of the media in Portugal will, without a doubt, be the dominant theme at this Congress, which is taking place in the year in which half a century of Democracy in Portugal is celebrated. Sad irony, isn't it?

There is a principle that says that the journalist should never be the news. In this case of Global Media, for all the reasons and more, journalists must be the news! They really have to be!

For ordinary citizens, talking about journalists' unpaid salaries could be like talking about unpaid salaries at a shoe company in the North or a construction company in the South. Something that is annoying, but that doesn't affect their daily lives.

However, the truth is that these serious situations weaken – and in what way! – the media also weakens our Democracy, which this year, as I mentioned above, even celebrates its 50th anniversary.

As citizens, it is good that we realize that these increasingly frequent attacks on the media put into question the Democracy that it took us so much to achieve. Because journalism, through its mission of surveillance, of denunciation, of lifting the stones to look at what is beneath, of delivering the news wherever it hurts, is one of the pillars of Democracy. Today and always!

As the Journalists' Union wrote yesterday, in an email sent to all its members, «we, journalists, are on the front line against totalitarianism, intolerance, lies, rumors, manipulation, ignorance».

“It is no coincidence that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently said that “the ability to create disinformation on a global scale and undermine scientifically established facts constitutes an existential risk to humanity itself”. It is also no coincidence that article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers to freedom of information as a fundamental right and paragraph 2 of article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union refers expressly states that “the freedom and pluralism of the media must be respected”. It is no coincidence that the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37, enshrines Freedom of expression and information, and Article 38 Freedom of the press and media", added the SJ.

«Job insecurity, along with the low salaries practiced in the sector, represents a serious obstacle to the development of the profession and constitutes an obstacle to the very right of citizens to be informed freely: a journalist who cannot pay the bills or have a minimum of job stability is more exposed to pressure from less scrupulous administrations and power in general. This seriously harms Freedom of the Press, one of the most decisive pillars of our democracy,” the Journalists’ Union said.

For all of this that I wrote (and transcribed) above and much more that could be said, this Wednesday, January 10th, between 14 and 15 p.m., the journalists (and all workers) of the Sul Informação will be on strike, in solidarity with our comrades at Global Media.

There are principles that we cannot give up!



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