Infoxication and information control
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Albert Camus used to say that a country is worth what its press is worth. How terrible is the freedom of the press in the world for Spain to still be the 32nd country on the list. Although we have lost three places, the decline in quality is so generalized in a world full of fake news that it camouflages the media grotesquery of recent years. But the Spanish case can offer valid lessons for other countries: in the end, many of these phenomena are almost universal, and so are the ways of dealing with them.
According to the recent report by RSF (Reporters Without Borders) which you can consult here, never before there have never been so many countries with a "very serious" press freedom situation. Little is being said about this situation and what it means for the future of peoples, of life.
The ranking is very striking: above the Nordic countries, with Norway, Denmark and Sweden in the top three positions, Spain is behind countries such as Germany (16th) or Great Britain (24th), and also behind others perhaps more surprising such as Costa Rica (8th) or Jamaica (12th), which are still among the first positions, but is better placed than the United States of Fox News and the assault on the Capitol (42nd) or Berlusconi's Italy (58th).
Recently - on May 3 - it was press freedom day. A day that Julian Assange and so many other journalists and reporters spent either behind bars or in exile. But these are not unique cases. There are hundreds of journalists in the same situation, and in a much worse one. 45 journalists were killed in 2021 (it is a horrible figure but at least it is going down compared to other years). A list in which Mexico and Afghanistan take the top spot as the countries where it is most dangerous to report, with 7 and 6 victims in the past year, respectively.
Although these are the most extreme cases, there are several places in the world where censorship is not so harsh, but it is still very difficult to exercise the right to report freely, especially if it touches the power .
There are many cases of journalists who have been sidelined, discredited, dismissed from the mainstream media as soon as they dare to deal with untouchable topics or people from certain positions. In Spain, journalist Jesús Cintora is a good example of this, dismissed for his clear denunciation of the scandals of the emeritus king. In other countries, instead of the king, the untouchable enemy may be a company or a millionaire.
In times of infoxication, who can be trusted? Four boards of directors control 80% of television and radio audiences in Spain. in Spain. And in addition, we find strong ties of political power with many of these media. Not only will they not criticize or investigate their shareholders and advertisers, but they will hardly do so with the governments that also support them with advertising contracts or with the political parties with which they have direct ties.
To this already Dantesque panorama, we must add a new trend on the rise in the world, the billionaires, who now directly buy social networks or who own more and more interests in the sector. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, has just bought Twitter; the second, Bezos, owns Amazon, which has its content generation branch, and also recently bought the Washington Post; Zuckerberg, another of the richest, owns Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. The tycoons are not only positioning themselves in a sector that generates influence, it is a question of power, of data. Of control.
This whole scenario paints a very tough and complicated situation for journalists who want to make a better world, because that hypothetical world often clashes with the interests of the most powerful. And it is no longer as simple as looking for a competing media and reporting, when almost all the big media serve the same interests -at least the same neoliberal philosophy that business comes first- there is simply nowhere to turn.
The mirage of apparent plurality is maintained to try to draw less attention to one of the most dangerous phenomena for the future of the human race. And I am not exaggerating. If there is no truthful information, there is no way to solve problems effectively, to make the right choices as a society, just when we have some of the most crucial challenges in front of us that we have ever faced.
Elites often live far removed from reality. In soundproofed luxury bubbles, and with a lifestyle whose sweet tune disables them from hearing the alarms that are heard at a lower level. The alarms that have been sounding for many years but never seem to be heard. The alarms of a world that is already suffering from catastrophic climate change, which is increasing at an ever-increasing rate, and which is also being joined, like a Siamese, by the energy crisis, which is making many of the key resources more expensive.
Faced with this situation, a courageous press, free of pressure, is needed more than ever, to help generate a social breeding ground that allows changes for the better to take place. There are very worthy examples of this. But they are in the minority. They do not have the reach of the large chains and depend on the contributions of subscribers or partners, millions of light years away from the poisoned financing that the economic powers can offer.
But there are two other ways: one is classic infiltration, getting space where there was none before. There are some people in my country who are achieving this with these crucial issues, but it is still not enough. However much space Antonio Turiel, Yayo Herrero or Fernando Valladares can get, it is still a drop -which adds up, but a drop- in a totally polluted and rotten ocean.
The other way is more radical, but at some point we will have to learn to exercise it, for what it is worth. There would be other more daring words to define this option, I will use here rescue, the crucial fourth power, from the clutches of the other three.