When patriots of 31 other nations descended upon Brazil last summer for the largest sporting event on the globe – the 2014 World Cup – fans from 30 of those nations including the homestanding Brazilians returned home disappointed, unfulfilled in their countrymen’s inability to compete on the largest stage in international athletics.
Only those from North Korea and Portugal could boast their glorious day in the sun in Rio de Janeiro competing in the World Cup Finals.
At least that’s what the insulated population of the small, communist nation was told by its media controlled entirely by the North Korean government.
Before you pull out your laptop or pen and paper to write a letter to the editor regarding our poor memory from the 2014 World Cup Final staged between Germany and Argentina, don’t worry about our World Cup accuracy skills. Our media in the free world did a fantastic job presenting the event in a straightforward and honest manner.
But over in North Korea, a country that didn’t even quality for the 2014 World Cup, the country’s government had its people believe that its team not only trekked across the Pacific Ocean to Brazil, but it also thrashed national rivals Japan, China, and yes, the United States, en route to the World Cup Final versus Portugal.
And without freedom of the press – among many other freedoms – the residents of North Korea have no choice but to believe what was presented to them and cheer along fictional courses of action.
But this column isn’t meant to lament the state of the media in North Korea. It simply brings up the extreme of the dangers of what can happen when the press isn’t allowed to do what it’s meant to do. That, of course, is serve its readership as a watchdog to anyone and anything that could affect its way of life.
And although it would be absurd to compare North Korea’s media to ours here in America, it’s certainly fair to wonder whether everything we read from our government is told through a 100 percent accurate lens.
Sure, we have freedom of the press guaranteed to us through the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but that hasn’t guaranteed complete transparency.
At some point in their research covering stories involving out various government entities, all journalists reach a stop sign, if you will, a place where their own efforts must stop and they have no choice but to believe the message presented to them by various entities.
Whether it’s roadblocks in the form of classified information to reporters covering the federal government in Washington, D.C., or executive sessions to reporters covering small government meetings, these obstructions, although often necessary to the greater good in the eyes of our various government entities, block our nation’s reporters from doing as through of a job telling the news as they possibly could.
And although comparing our abridgings to those of North Korea would be a ludicrous argument, and its not one this column intends to make, the fact remains that the cornerstone of democracy rests in the hands of having an educated electorate. And in order to make that a reality, the public’s watchdog must be able to examine all sides of every story.
That’s why we at The Times urge you to support Sunshine Week – a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the important of open government and freedom of information – spanning from March 15-21. Visit sunshineweek.org for more information.
We in America, of course, have nowhere near the barriers to an open press like those in North Korea do. After all, we’re well aware that our World Cup squad lost in the Round of 16 to Belgium.
However, there are much more important international affairs than how our soccer team did in the world’s biggest sporting event, and in order to make sure the coverage of those proceedings remain as accurate as possible, we must never stop fighting for our freedom of the press here in America.
The freedom of much more than the press depends on it.