Within a very few weeks, Spain and the whole world have been plunged into a nightmare. The first global epidemic in more than a hundred years has caused an unprecedented collective psychosis, which increases day by day through fear caused by uncertainty about the present and the future. Our loved ones get sick and die. Memories of encounters with friends and family are distant. Confinement multiplies anxiety. A situation that seems to have no end.
But virus progression will be contained -we will check this sooner or later-, with research, with a social conscience and with prevention and isolation measures. And we will have to overcome fear, which crosses doors and borders at a chilling speed. Overcoming the latter will require an unprecedented collective effort in which the role of the media, of editors and journalists, will be essential. Just providing close, useful, truthful, complete, fast, accurate and committed information with citizens we will be able to curb the fear of social contact. To normal.
Journalism is undoubtedly the best antidote to disinformation, silences and lies that, deliberately, generate movements interested in the imbalance of the institutions. Interests that multiply as quickly as your own coronavirusgenerating a serious and confusing, harmful situation for all of us who are suffering it.
In these circumstances, our responsibility as editors and journalists is more important never. Surely, the greatest challenge we have faced since the Second World War. Citizens of all countries now have not only the right, but the urgent need for our work. It is true that we are facing a new contingency and, therefore, unknown to all, but the media have historically demonstrated that we know how to react to this challenge; the more complicated the situation, the more evident it has been our ability to react, doing our work with more effort, more dedication, more seriousness and more efficiency.
Journalists and editors are, before anything else, a staple public service. Like doctors, nurses, manufacturers of medical equipment, policemen or soldiers, delivery men, we are at the forefront of this common fight, even at the cost of our health, aware that we have a duty inexcusable for guaranteeing the right of citizens to know the truth. No other thing. The truth of what happens.
Therefore, we have never been so necessary as now. Our function of social cohesion, defense of the democratic system, of encouragement of solidarity and conscience citizen. Never before has it been so great our desire to do the best journalism. Our commitment to the truth is never praiseworthy; an inexcusable social and ethical duty.
And, despite everything, we have never had it more difficult than now. The vast majority of our media are not publicly owned, but private. We are companies we need resources to do our work and effectively provide our service to society. The internet earthquake and the terrible world economic crisis, which started in 2008, meant for the free and democratic press from all over the world a huge blow and an unprecedented challenge Many did not survive. Others, we undertook a difficult professional and structural transformation for adapt to the information needs of a changing society in its values, but above all in its technology. At an unprecedented rate. After years of sacrifices we were succeeding. With enormous difficulties, but already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
And then hewe bequeath to this new scenario, unexpectedly, near unprecedented, almost with the virulence and speed of lightning. And there is a perverse paradox; journalism is more necessary than ever, audiences multiply, but our livelihoods evaporate in days, and with them our livelihood to survive. Advertising has practically disappeared. Buying newspapers is getting more complicated. The global economic slowdown, which is hardly unprecedented in the time we have had to live, has affected us in a brutal way. Right now, when we are required – and we demand ourselves – more than ever, we have less means than ever.
We lend an essential service in circumstances as exceptional as today. We cannot stop our activity. We cannot close or take a few weeks off until all this happens, because that would be betraying the society that right now needs us in a peremptory way. But we need to find a solution to our problems. We need short-term financing, we need liquidity, we need a bridge that allows us to get to the other side of the river without drowning in the attempt.
Now it has to be seen commitment to freedom of expression and the right to information from authorities, governments, public administrations and official bodies. If they really believe – and we know that many do – that our media, those that maintain 36,000 direct and 160,000 indirect jobs, they are not only necessary but indispensable to prop up serenity in a frightened society; if they are convinced, as we are, that this serenity is achieved with truthful, complete and straight information; If they do not doubt the need for citizens to have healthy and independent means, then they have an obligation to make our existence possible and to allow us to overcome this trance by facilitating our work. The sacrifice, effort and responsibility we are putting them. Let no one be tempted to get confused: the media is an essential pillar of democratic coexistence, with our mistakes and with our failures. A society without solvent means will never be able to feel a free society and in it coexistence will be seriously threatened.
We are not talking about profits or income statements. Now that doesn’t matter. We talk about staying alive to continue our commitment to support citizens, their dignity, social cohesion, and the maintenance of democracy. We talk about being able to continue doing good journalism despite the circumstances, of continuing with our work, even at the cost of the enormous sacrifice that is being demanded of all of us in this terrible trance. In short, we are talking about how the media can continue with their unwavering commitment in defense of freedom and the democratic future of our world.
Fernando de Yarza López-Madrazo
President of the World Association of Newspapers and Publishers (WAN-IFRA)