WESTERN PRODUCER — I wonder what it would have been like last summer if The Western Producer had tried to cover the weather disaster that hit the Prairies without using the words “drought,” “dry” or “rain?”
And that if we did use them, our editors and reporters would have been thrown in jail for 15 years?
Instead, we would have had to refer to the heat wave and lack of rain as a “special meteorological operation” and left it at that.
Our readers might have had a very different opinion about what was going on across the country. Sure, it was extremely dry on their farm, but hey, it really didn’t look like it was that big of a deal.
That’s what’s happening in Russia.
President Vladmir Putin has signed a law making it illegal for anyone to describe his country’s invasion of Ukraine as … well, an invasion. Oh, and “war” is also off the table. The attack has to be called what Putin has declared it to be — only a “special military operation.”
The sentence for violating what has been called the “fake news” law starts at three years in prison but can increase to 15 years for cases that are considered to have led to “severe consequences.”
As you can imagine, this has drastically affected general public opinion in Russia about the war. It has also prompted many international news agencies such as the BBC to stop working in the country to protect their staff.
The media crackdown is distressing, but it is by no means a unique event.
Independent journalism is under attack around the world with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that 27 journalists were murdered last year for doing their jobs and seven so far this year. According to the CPJ, 1,423 journalists have been killed around the world since 1992.
Canada has been spared this horror, but even here, journalists have increasingly been coming under attack in certain quarters.
Reporters covering the recent anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa talked about being insulted, threatened and even attacked as they covered the event.
A free press is vital to a thriving democracy. The first thing those who want to stifle democracy do is slap a muzzle on journalists.
What’s happening in Russia should be a lesson for us all.