Steve Fisher, Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley (Bend, OR): The role of journalism in a sustainable society
“Access to information is key to the success of a sustainable society and journalism plays a pivotal role in achieving that goal. In its finest form, journalism keeps governments and corporations accountable. There are thousands of definitions for journalism and that continues to grow over time as the barriers to dissemination of information become ever more scalable. Governments around the world are increasingly cracking down on the publications in a time when transparency has become vital to the survival of communities. There is no better example than Mexico, a country where journalists are targeted, and killed, in record numbers.
The forced disappearance of the 43 students in Mexico, last year, has become the country’s greatest source of instability in the past half century. The events have sparked a fury in the Mexican population that has cut across class and wealth divisions. In the interest of self-preservation, the government crafted a false version of events that night. For three months there was little to no pertinent new information regarding the attack on the students. Then, three months ago a co-reporter and myself accessed the government’s entire criminal file not available to the public, nor the Mexican senate–and discovered an extraordinary cover-up of the truth of the attack that night. The majority of testimonies implicating various local groups, were given under brutal torture. Supposed cartel members, including an owner of a meat shop, a middle school teacher, and a twenty-year old fireman were forced to testify their involvement with the cartel. Furthermore, Federal Police and the military were directly involved in the attack when the government had insisted this was not the case. In short, the government had concocted a version almost entirely based on torture and lies. Possession of the criminal file is illegal but that risk does not outweigh the importance of accessing information that is in the interest of the general public of the country.
In the case of the disappeared students–and in many other cases around the world–it is access to information that will ensure the safety, security and sustainability of the society.”