The truth is under attack like never before, BBC director-general Tim Davie told a special church service in London attended by the Duchess of Cornwall.
Speaking at the annual memorial service for journalists, held at St Bride’s, Fleet Street – the Church of Journalists – Davie said: ‘In the age of misinformation, the truth is under attack like never before . Those who defend it most strongly have never been more targeted.”
He welcomed the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, “for their fight for freedom of expression” in the Philippines and Russia.
Praising their courage, the Nobel committee said they saw the two as “the representatives of all journalists who uphold the ideals of democracy and peace in the world today.”
Davie explained: “We know that the physical risks facing journalists no longer come just from the front line. Journalists around the world face increasing dangers, increasing levels of harassment and ever more subtle modes of intimidation.
He said that in March BBC Beijing correspondent John Sudworth was forced to leave China “following pressure and threats from the authorities”.
Over the summer, BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford was expelled from Russia after more than 20 years of reporting. Such moves, he said, “were almost unthinkable just a few years ago.”
Davie told the service Nov. 9 that journalists share key beliefs “that truth is the foundation of democracy, that power must be held accountable, those who abuse that power must be exposed, and those who are victimized this abuse must give a voice.”
He added: “These are the values that bind us. But, more than anything else, what truly brings us together as a family is the compassion and care we have for our colleagues in peril around the world and their families.
Introducing the service, Canon Alison Joyce, Rector of St Bride’s, said: “Never has the world needed good journalism so much, and never have we had more opportunity to be reminded of the human cost of good journalism than today.
“It is our privilege to honor the memory of all those journalists, photographers, film crews and their support staff, and all freelancers in the industry, who lost their lives last year. and to remember in our prayers those who continue to work in situations of immense personal risk in pursuit of the truth.We all owe you an immense debt of gratitude.
Anthony Loyd, war correspondent for The temperature, reviewed media coverage of Afghanistan over the past 20 years and urged the media not to retreat after the Taliban returned to power.
He said: “What happens next in Afghanistan can be influenced to some extent at least by journalists, and in particular by editors and executives.
“We have a choice, either to complete the abandonment of Afghanistan and erase media attention from what happens there next, or to persist in reporting on the country in a way that may shed light on the need for dialogue with the Taliban as famine threatens millions of people.”
ITV News political correspondent Libby Wiener read Jesus’ words from John’s Gospel, Chapter 15: “The greatest love has no one but this, that one would lay down his life for his friends.”
DailyMirror Editor Alison Phillips read excerpts from Martha Gellhorn’s “The Face of War,” a collection of reports from the frontline writer.
The service came days after Pope Francis praised the journalists’ role. He said: “Journalism does not come so much by choosing a profession as by embarking on a mission, to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to cause less fear and to look at others with more confidence.
The pope encouraged journalists to keep in mind what he considers the three marks of good journalism: to listen, to probe and to tell stories.
“Journalism does not come so much by choosing a profession, as by embarking on a mission, much like a doctor, who studies and works for the healing of evil in the world,” he said.
During the St Bride service, Canon Alison Joyce led a poignant prayer for all involved in journalism:
in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn, but the sword of righteousness,
and no force known but the force of love:
guide and protect all who seek to testify
to the truth of your troubled world;
all those who seek to give a voice to the voiceless,
and to tell stories that would otherwise remain untold.
We especially remember this day all the members of this profession who have passed away,
or whose fate is unknown
so that you bless their work,
and strengthen and sustain those who love them.
In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
The Reverend Peter Crumpler is a former director of communications for the Church of England and author of ‘Responding to Post-Truth’.