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During my fourteen months at war in Vietnam, the most courageous people I met were journalists.
I saw reporters from newspapers, magazines, radio and television routinely rush toward the sound of gunfire. When the firefights started, even hardened soldiers sought shelter—but the unarmed journalists, willing to risk their lives to cover the story, did just the opposite.
Believe me, that takes a special kind of bravery.
Ever since then, I’ve had enormous respect for wartime reporters, wherever they may be. Covering war, among the very worst imaginable jobs, has taken the lives of hundreds of reporters. Still, though, plenty of people take their places every year. Why? So we can know what war really means—so we can know the truth.
The Baha’i teachings have a special affinity for fair speech and truthfulness. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Baha’is exalt and honor the profession of journalism. Abdu’l-Baha, interviewed by Western journalists many times, said:
We may ascertain the progress or retrogression of a nation by its journalism… Journalists must write significant articles, articles that shall foster the public welfare. If they do so they will be the first agents for the development of the community. – from the Pennsylvania Public Ledger, in Mina Yazdani’s essay for Abdu’l-Baha’s Journey West, p. 151.
Baha’u’llah urged every journalist toward justice:
In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of diverse peoples and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon. However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 39.
The Baha’i teachings envision a future with a unified system of world governance, where journalists are free to report their findings unhindered by any prejudicial economic, corporate or political power:
A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvelous swiftness and perfect regularity.… In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will co-operate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. – Shoghi Effendi, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. xii.
On May 3rd, the world observes United Nations World Press Freedom Day, which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, defends the media from attacks on their independence and pays tribute to journalists who’ve given their lives in pursuit of the truth. On that day, I’d suggest, you might want to thank a reporter.
In 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists (www.cpj.org) reports, 72 reporters died in the line of duty. They gave their lives so you could know the truth.
But an even larger and largely unknown number of dedicated reporters lost their jobs or their ability to independently report the truth when “vested interests, whether private or public,” unduly pressured, bought out, took over or manipulated media outlets worldwide. The Baha’i teachings deplore this trend, and Baha’is work toward the day when our world’s media is liberated from any and all influences that hinder the free expression of the truth.