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Weekly Pause &  Ponder

We invent nothing, truly.  We borrow and re-create.  We uncover and discover.  All has been given, as the mystics say.  We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is.

- Henry Miller


WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY ~ MAY 3 2019 Theme ~ Media for Democracy: 

Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation

What compels journalists to risk their lives to expose oppression and corruption?  Perhaps we who are called to prophetic mission are closer than we might imagine to journalists committed to truth, democracy, human rights and the environment.

For many global citizens, the journey to democracy is fraught with peril.  For those in democratic countries, troubling trends such as intrusive surveillance highlight the need for ongoing vigilance. 

Though sometimes considered meddlesome and even “dispensable”, journalists and news organizations can play a vital role as guardians, informed commentators and advocates.  Their protection and independence are essential for many other freedoms at the heart of democracies.  

This year in Canada, World Press Freedom Day precedes a fall federal election already marked by competing narratives about truth, trust and vision.  Credible voices also warn about potential international interference in our upcoming election.  In the United States, questions still surround the last federal election, while comments about “fake news” abound. 

The United Nations notes that World Press Freedom Day offers opportunities to:

  • Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • Assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • Defend the media from attacks on their independence, and
  • Pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty (www.un.org).

The observance also highlights Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholding the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

In both 2018 and 2019, Reporters Without Borders ranked Canada 18th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index.  Overall, the Paris-based organization pointed to a deterioration of media freedom around the world as the number of countries where journalists can work safely declines (rsf.org).  Earlier, the government of Canada announced it will co-host a conference on media freedom with Britain July 10-11 this year in London.

World Press Freedom Day was inspired by the 1991 UNESCO* seminar held in Windhoek, Namibia.  The Windhoek Declaration focused on promoting a free, independent and pluralistic African press.

This year’s international celebrations are being held May 1-3 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.  Globally, about 100 other events are planned to mark the observance, including a celebration May 2 in Ottawa sponsored by the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom (www.ccwpf-cclpm.ca).

In his 2019 message for the church’s World Communications Day, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of real -- not only virtual -- human communities.  He highlighted the urgent need for the Internet and social media to be at the service of truth and respectful relationships which foster communion (w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20190124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html).

Questions for Reflection

  • How does what we read, see and hear through various forms of media shape our perspectives and choices?  How does what we’re not seeing, or hearing do the same?
  • Highly concentrated ownership of mainline media in Canada can restrict our sources of information.  What alternative sources of news, information and commentary do/might we choose to explore?
  • How might we and our religious/faith communities support and encourage younger media personnel and journalism students?

~ Roma De Robertis, SCIC 

Roma De Robertis is a Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception based in Saint John, NB.  She has worked in Catholic journalism and justice and peace ministries.  During her current sabbatical, she has been staying with Sisters of St. Joseph first in North Bay and now in London, ON. 

(*UNESCO is the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization based in Paris, France.)     


The Role of  Journalists

The Importance of Journalists and Publishers

My primary purpose for this blog is to affirm the critical value of journalists.  My second purpose is to call attention to the terrible injustice of trafficking labour in Canada. Reading the individual stories of victims in the April 6 and April 8 editions of the Globe and Mail is heart rending. The abuse of unscrupulous traffickers contained in these editions contain horrendous accounts of the kind of abuse we might expect in places where traffickers force immigrants into leaky boats crossing the Caribbean or lead them across the deserts of southern United States.  In this article I wish to applaud the courage and skill of journalists who investigate and write stories of government neglect or abuse, and of the publishers who dare to publish them. We hear of the imprisonment and murders of journalists in Mexico and other countries. We have seen how journalists of investigated and written accounts about such topics as “unfounded” rape charges, money laundering, insurance fraud, solitary confinement, abusive sales of telecommunication packages or bank services have forced governments, corporations, and institutions to change their practices. 

In a time of instant and unreliable spreading of news on social media, we need more than ever to support our journalists and publishers. Political parties promise transparency of government during election campaigns but once in office they tend to make it very difficult, expensive, and time consuming for journalist to access information needed to keep the public informed. Reading reliable newspapers and magazines, writing letters to editors or members of parliament, and supporting responsible broadcast and television stations are some of the ways in which we can protect freedom of speech and promote democracy in Canada.

Trafficking Foreign Workers

In this paragraph, I am simply quoting some phrases and sentences from the April 6 and April 8 editions of the Globe and Mail.  These two editions contain well investigated accounts of how unscrupulous immigration consultants and international recruiters make millions of dollars by enticing thousands of foreigners seeking sustainable employment in Canada to non-existent jobs, uncertified training in career colleges, virtual enslavement, and horrifying living conditions. The Globe’s four-month investigation identified 45 recruiters and consultants “accused of exploiting at least 2,300 people . . . from countries such as India, the Philippines, Mexico, and Guatemala for their money, their labour or both.” . . . “The Trudeau government is well aware, from being told repeatedly in consultations, that some recruits are ending up in dismal situations. Working under intolerable conditions for meager pay. Crammed into wretched temporary housing. Holding a useless career-college diploma and no work permit.”  . . . . “The number of licensed immigration Consultants has doubled to more than 5,000 in the past five years . . . . . “Enforcement is lacking . . . . . “the number of leads that immigration authorities recorded about employment fraud by agents doubled in the past five years – from 153 to 301 – while, inexplicably, the number of investigations went down to 27 from 38.”

Freedom of the press matters. How can each of us support this in our Country?   How will our Government respond to the Globe and Mail’s  reports of abusive treatment of immigrants?

- Sister Pat McKeon



Weekly Pause &  Ponder

The Universal Christ is trying to communicate at the deepest level that there is only One Life.  One Death, and One Suffering on this earth.  We are all invited to ride the one wave, which is the only wave there is.  Call it Reality, if you wish.  But we are all in this together…. The Gospel…is about learning to live and die in and with God—all our warts included and forgiven by an Infinite Love.  The True Gospel democratizes the world.

 - from The Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr


The Missing Maharajah: A Book  Review

If you are looking for your next novel to read, I am recommending you read Frances Brody’s mystery novels. Kate Shackleton is the keen detective who leaves not a stone unturned to find out ‘who done it’. Murder on a Summer’s Day is situated in England, but Kate’s investigations take her beyond those borders. In this novel interesting detail of India’s history, customs and culture add to our knowledge of the 1920’s.

I think fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s books will also enjoy Frances Brody’s mystery novels.


- Sister Valerie Van Cauwenberghe


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.