The end of the free press is the beginning of the war

We feel that World Press Freedom Day needs to clarify that independent journalists are one of the last barriers to protecting democratic societies from being the victim of dictatorship.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown us how far the dissolution of the democratic system and the suffocation of free press can go. Uncontrolled autocrats exercised through independent media are likely to resort to attacks against groups of civilians and even other countries.

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In Russia, about 60 journalists have been killed in the last 30 years. They were shot in the head, shot with machine gun bullets, poisoned, beaten, beaten in cars, thrown out of windows, and killed as hostages. In most cases, the identity of the mastermind behind these crimes has not been revealed, and the world remembers only a few names of murdered journalists who confronted a large national propaganda machine in search of truth. not.

The killing of journalists is a serious indicator that something is terribly wrong in a country and that the world should be concerned.

But Putin went a step further. He is now forcing Europe into an unimaginable life.

Journalists in Central and Eastern Europe report wars that are spreading throughout the region. We talk about generation-affecting losses and pain that cannot be cured over time. We explain and provide disturbing images, political statements, and numerical backgrounds. We separate the facts from propaganda 24 hours a day.

We are forced to take on the role of new journalism. We condemn the false information disseminated by the Troll factory and monitor the state to see if wartime measures to curb Russian propaganda are in compliance with the law. We reach out to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in search of solidarity with humanity in neighboring countries and strive to help them build a dignified life abroad.

We also support Ukrainian colleagues who are on the most difficult missions to date and are endangering their lives to bring news to their readers. Nine journalists have already been killed during a mission in Ukraine.

And it shows solidarity with the rest of Russia’s independent journalists who have endorsed the value of journalism in an increasingly hostile environment, many of which have been arrested, banished, or closed by the media. But in our own region there are other nations under the Russian spell, and propaganda has been raised to the level of national doctrine. Even EU member states could not keep Hungary off the road. The recent election victory of Victor Orban and his party Fides puts an additional burden on the distorted Hungarian media environment. There, a few independent media survive and struggle to maintain the definition of journalism that is understood in democratic societies.

We understand that the fate of independent journalism in Hungary is our common European fate, as Orban spreads his non-liberal influence throughout the region.

This is especially noticeable in Poland. When the Law and Justice (PiS) Party came to power in 2015, the independent media was the victim of massive legal, economic and political pressure in the form of proceedings. Media by politicians; ads and announcements withdrawn from free media. Attack on independent media by national propaganda. Also, the expulsion of independent reporters and editors of regional and local media acquired by state-owned enterprises.

In Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and now Slovenia, authoritarian or non-liberal governments have changed. But while in Bulgaria, the new Czech government took time to enact the promised media reforms, the new ruling coalition is not putting pressure on the media, but the captured part of the media is in Russia. It has become a propaganda tool and is being used to destroy public opinion about the war in Ukraine.

In Romania, journalists face regular harassment to get the job done. Investigative journalist Emilia Seljan was a victim of Operation Compromat, which recently began with a document leaked from police. Last year, the Libertatea newspaper research team had to fight further. More than 30 proceedings filed by the Mayor of Bucharest.

But we journalists are not helpless. Despite verbal attacks, slander campaigns, political and economic pressures, we continue to serve readers throughout the region. We understand that silent journalists, political attacks, and whatever country they happen to, are relevant to the entire journalism community.

Journalism teaches us to take a step back and tell our sources, facts, discussions and stories through our work. But World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to feel that independent journalists need to be clarified as one of the last barriers to protecting democratic societies from being the victim of dictatorship. Autonomous regions without public control may eventually resort to war.

This editorial is co-published by a network of independent media in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. The end of the free press is the beginning of the war

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