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Why independent journalism is so important for democracy

There is no freedom without freedom of the press: Bascha Mika, editor in Chief of Frankfurter Rundschau, about the lifeblood of a free society.

Bascha Mika, 03.12.2019
Redaktion Newsroom
© dpa

There is no freedom without freedom of the press. And without freedom of the press there is no democracy. If democracy is to remain strong, it requires independent journalism – as the lifeblood of a free society. As the cornerstone of every democratic system. In Germany and elsewhere. In that sense, journalists bear a fundamental responsibility within society to defend basic democratic values. First of all, that involves solid tradecraft: maintaining professional and ethical standards, truthfulness, human dignity, diligence and never losing sight of the big picture. Yet the obligation towards the democratic system by no means ends here. Journalists have a duty that goes beyond that. After all, they produce a public good. That is why they must concern themselves professionally not only with their craft, but also with the state of the world. And, yes, also with improving the state of the world – by standing up for freedom, human rights, justice and open cooperation. Journalists provide a public service; they serve democracy. That must be stated and argued for again and again, loudly and fearlessly. If we do not do this in Germany, then where else will it be done? What about all those countries where insistence on civil liberties kills? The freedom of the press is under threat worldwide. The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous for media workers, even in EU countries. That must frighten all those who want to defend freedom as a human right. Journalists should certainly not need to be heroes here. They should do their job – reporting on the world in words and pictures, describing and analysing it, explaining and commenting on it. Yet in precisely those places where authoritarian regimes crack down hardest, where fear is spread and self-censorship commonplace, much more is required than the standard qualities of the journalist’s craft. What is then needed is a surfeit of idealism. Passion! The press must be fearless here, demonstrate courage and a spirit of resistance. Because independent journalism is a lifeblood of democracy – that we must defend.

The journalist has been editor-in-chief of the Frankfurter Rund­schau daily since 2014 – and is thus one of the few women at the head of a major German print and online publication. Bascha Mika was born in Poland and moved to the Federal Republic with her family as a child. Before her move to the Frankfurter Rundschau she worked as an editor and reporter and also spent eleven years as editor-in-chief of the tageszeitung (taz) in Berlin. The award-winning journalist has also been honorary professor at the Berlin University of the Arts since 2007.


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