You may have already heard that in the worldwide “Press Freedom Ranking” of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany has dropped out of the top group for the first time this year and has been downgraded from “good” to “satisfactory”. The main reason for this is the numerous attacks on media representatives on the fringes of Corona demonstrations. In 2020, RSF counted at least 65 violent attacks on journalists in Germany – a bitter setback for a democratic country that prides itself on tolerance and freedom of expression.
Doubtlessly, the mood has been inflamed by the Corona crisis, and fake news has contributed its share to the decline of many people’s trust in media reporting in recent months. As an agency in close contact with media representatives, we are watching this development with concern.
Independent journalism fulfils an important task within a functioning society, and people’s understanding of this connection has to be (re-)established. This is a challenging – but essential – task because the legally guaranteed freedom of media, opinion and speech is one of the most important pillars of our society. Every individual can and should do something for it: you can pay for quality journalism and use paid services, report fake news on social media or object when people around you talk about the “lying press” and the like. You can also actively intervene in forum postings and on social media when journalists are the object of defamatory attacks, or arrange for offensive content to be blocked – these are all first steps you can take yourself.
In this sense, we at Schwartz PR also see it as part of our job to combat fake news, strengthen the backs of media professionals and support them when verbally attacked. It is important to understand that responsibility for a good approach to press freedom begins in small ways, with many individual steps, and that we must work together to achieve this – because a society’s strength lies not only in its economic power, but also in freedom of expression.