This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to everyone to understand and support the importance information as a public good, and explore what can be done to make journalism, transparency and empowerment stronger.

The theme is very important to all countries across the world. It recognizes all the ways we get information and what that is doing to our health, our human rights and democracies.

So what does that mean?

Journalism is the job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.

Transparency is when whatever is being done is clearly shown for the good of everyone. When information is available to all, not secret.

Empowerment is the power, right, or authority to do something.

In some countries, journalists are not empowered, they are killed for writing what is going on in their government. In most countries, there are some in government who may not want people to know what they are doing. Everyone including journalists have the right to know and the press (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.) is how they can find out.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) holds a World Press Freedom Day conference each year for journalists from all over the world to meet and talk about how to improve press freedom everywhere. They also remember the journalists who have died trying to do their jobs.

Origin

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993. Since then, May 3 is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

May 3 acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among journalists about issues of press freedom and journalistic ethics.

Responsibilities

A free press isn’t just free. It also has responsibilities. It has a responsibility to make sure that whatever it tells the public is true. To make sure that it tells both sides of the story. (This is called being objective.) To make sure if it makes a mistake it tells the public right away that it did so and what the correct information should be.

Fake News

Almost everyone has heard this term. You may have heard adults in your world using it. But what is fake news really?

Fake news is news that is totally made up. It’s not news that you disagree with. Just because you don’t like it or disagree with it, does not make it fake.

How do you know the difference?

Here are the things that you should look out for when you see a piece of news, especially online:

Story – what is it trying to say? Be a detective and see if you can find the same story somewhere else. Is it told in the same way?

Emotions – how does the story make you feel? Fake news tries to make people feel a certain way. Beware of the “woah” feeling and stop before sharing. It might even be a joke!

Picture – is it fake or out of context? (This means it has been taken from its original true setting and added to a fake setting.) Check with a reverse image search to find where it’s from originally. It is very easy to change a picture these days so you need to try and find out if it is real.

Author – what’s the URL? Check the address bar at the top – most trusted URLs end with “.com”, “.co.uk”, “.net”, “.gov”, “.org”, “.mil” and “.edu”.

If it doesn’t, it might be fake. Are there any experts named or quoted?

Shares – even if it’s shared by a friend or famous person, it doesn’t mean it’s correct.

(BBC Bitesize)

You decide

Just because your friends, adults, or even famous people think something, it doesn’t mean it is true or that you have to agree. Think for yourself. Just because you have read it in print, heard it on the radio, seen it on TV or social media doesn’t mean it is true. Think for yourself.

Do your own detective work to make sure it is not fake. Ask lots of questions. You can ask teachers, librarians, adults. Then think about their answers. Now you are ready to decide what you think. This is called critical thinking and it is very important.

Media is important

A free press is very important to a free country. In the United States it is protected under the first amendment which grants us all the right to free speech. This means the government can’t stop or punish us for saying what we think.

The media is important for many reasons. One reason is to make sure everyone knows what is going on in their government. Reporters go to town, county and state meetings and then write about what happened. This way everyone who didn’t go to those meeting will understand what is being said and done. This keeps government from being secretive.

That is why there a laws called Freedom of Information or “sunshine” laws. These laws apply to everyone. In other words, anyone can get information … even you!

In March the media celebrates Sunshine Week and the Freedom of Information Act which guarantees that we all can get whatever information we need from our government. While there are some exceptions to this law, for the most part it covers all the goings on in government.

Why do you think it is called the “Sunshine Law”?

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