Information and Power: Three Documentaries to Watch on World Press Freedom Day

By Maurício Kuperstein

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”
― Albert Camus

Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, celebrates press freedom, acting as a reminder of governments’ commitment to it, a reflection time for media professionals in regard to its issues and ethics and as a day to honour those who lost their lives for justice, truth and transparency.

This year’s theme is “Information as a public good” and covers three key topics: 

  1. Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media;
  2. Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies;
  3. Enhanced Media & Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.

Celebrated English writer, George Orwell said: “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose”. Hence, celebrating World Press Freedom Day, is still very much relevant, when considering that, everyday professionals and stories are being suppressed by dictatorships and non-democratic governments all over the world. 

People’s freedom starts with the freedom of expression of the press. It constitutes a key societal pillar, that needs to be preserved and protected. 

In celebration of this day, we suggest three must-watch documentaries, that highlight the courage and determination of journalists who were not afraid to uncover the ugliest and scariest side of human behaviour, in the entrails of power.

(2019) by Alexander Nanau

Collective is a Romanian film, nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and Best International Film, centred on reporter Catalin Tolontan, who exposed a shocking corruption scandal that originated in a deadly fire in a Bucharest nightclub in 2015, and the mysterious related deaths that occurred after. Following journalists, whistle-blowers, burn victims, and government officials, Collective is an uncompromising look at the impact of investigative journalism at its best.

A Thousand Cuts
(2020) by Ramona S. Diaz

Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defence of truth and democracy. A Thousand Cuts is a powerful and revealing film, that goes inside the escalating war between the government and the press. 

Courage: Journalism is Not a Crime
(2019) by Tom Heinemann

Released on World Press Day in 2018, Courage: Journalism is Not a Crime, highlights the plight of three journalists in three of the world’s most challenging countries for press freedom – Myanmar, Turkey and Azerbaijan. A thrilling film about the courage and tenacity of fighting for the need for critical and independent, by revealing what those in power want to hide, even in the face of jail, torture, or death.

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