World Press Freedom Day recognizes information as a public good

Mbalu Fonnie, head nurse in the hemorrhagic fever ward, and nurse Veronica Karoma describe efforts to contain the Ebola virus as they stand outside the gates to the isolation ward at the government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Mbalu Fonnie, head nurse in the hemorrhagic fever ward, and nurse Veronica Karoma describe efforts to contain the Ebola virus as they stand outside the gates to the isolation ward at the government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2021

World Press Freedom Day recognizes information as a public good

Nashville, Tenn.: United Methodist News (UM News) correspondents Phileas Jusu and Julu Swen didn’t know Ebola would become a global epidemic when they risked their well-being to cover the church’s response to the outbreak in West Africa, venturing out on the streets to do interviews and take photos.

According to a report from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), “Information was critical to the fight against Ebola. Both for responders, who needed detailed and timely data about the disease’s spread, and for communities, who needed access to trusted and truthful information with which they could protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day, observed on May 3, is “Information as a Public Good” – a call to affirm the importance of providing information for the benefit and well-being of the public and to advance openness and transparency.

As part of a global team of journalists who paint a picture of the denomination’s worldwide connection through reporting that represents the diverse faces and voices of United Methodists worldwide, Jusu and Swen are no strangers to reporting in difficult contexts. Both have covered numerous challenging stories over the years, including teaming up to cover a deadly landslide and flooding in Sierra Leone. UM News reporters often tell stories of how the church is engaged in major events affecting the world today, responding to communities struggling with violence, natural disasters, conditions of poverty, and disease outbreaks.

According to a study by Muck Rack on the State of Journalism 2021, 94 percent of journalists say that their reporting has pivoted to angles related to COVID-19. As a trusted source of information and news for the people of The United Methodist Church, reporting about the COVID-19 pandemic has been a priority for the UM News team. Voters chose the COVID-19 pandemic as the top news story of The United Methodist Church in 2020.

United Methodist News puts a human face on global issues through thought-provoking multimedia content that provides a glimpse into the lives of those affected and highlights ways that the church seeks to be part of the solution. 

Photojournalist Mike DuBose says he strives to tell each person’s story with dignity, showing strength amidst adversity. DuBose recalls the many times during trips to countries in Africa when he observed women and girls carrying buckets of water on their heads. “There are so many people in this world who don't have access to clean water and it was something that just stayed with me over many years and I was committed to trying to tell this story,” said DuBose. The resulting photo essay, Water is Life, addresses global health and the pressing needs related to development and sustainability.

"Nothing is more powerful than the power of someone's personal story. That's where we see people gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and the issues that we face, and it's also the level where we see hearts changed," said Tim Tanton, Chief News Officer.

Sharing different viewpoints through the publication of commentaries that provide a voice for all is part of the thinking behind a new series on personal encounters with racism that invites people to share their own stories about how they view racism or how they have experienced it.

UM News’ content often reflects the importance of being free to report amid political conflicts, such as recent reporting in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic, that shines a light on United Methodist efforts to promote peace, curb election violence, provide humanitarian aid and offer hope.

“World Press Freedom Day offers a reminder that, in many countries, journalists are still censored and are often putting their lives on the line in reporting the stories. Our communicators are reporting on the work the church is doing, but they still can be at risk. If that story is considered critical of the government, that could be something that could put them in danger,” said Julie Dwyer, UM News Editor.

“I think sometimes here (in the U.S.) we don't think about what goes into telling the story of the work that the church is doing around the world, so this is an important day to remember the challenges that not only church communicators but journalists everywhere face.”

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About United Methodist News Service
United Methodist News is a trusted and timely official source of comprehensive information and news about The United Methodist Church. Through UMNews.org, social media, and weekly and daily e-newsletters, UM News provides in-depth, thought-provoking multimedia coverage that facilitates a deeper understanding of our global connection. United Methodist News is a ministry of United Methodist Communications. Learn how to support communication ministry at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Media contact:
Diane Degnan [email protected]
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