A few months ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix. It was called “Los días de Ayotzinapa (The 43)” and centred around the murder and disappearance of 43 Mexican students. The gruesome event occurred in 2014 when the students – who were travelling by bus to a demonstration – were stopped by Mexican police forces. Some of the students managed to escape, but 6 of them were shot directly on the scene and 43 were “made disappear”. Some burnt remains of their bodies were found later. What happened to the students after they were arrested by the police remains an open question to this day. Of course, there are several theories, such as one claiming that policemen handed the students to criminals, who later killed them.
Apart from telling this cruel story, the documentary also poses a question which stuck with me: What do you do in a country where you can’t trust the authorities? What do you do if you can’t rely on the police, the military or the government to protect you?
When the students were surrounded by the police and being shot at, they could not call the authorities to save them. The people they called, apart from their families, were journalists. They knew that the only thing that could protect them at this moment would be the attention of the press and the public. And while most of the journalists were not able to access the crime scene and could not stop the kidnapping, they together with the families of the victims managed to get this story out into the public eye. Huge mass protests broke out and pressured the government at the time to investigate the murders properly. In the documentary, most of the interviewees are journalists who are still investigating the story. I often think back to these students, who faced with this grave danger, are putting their hopes on local journalists.
There are many examples of the press holding authorities accountable and giving a voice to those who otherwise might not be heard. The Washington Post’s new slogan “Democracy dies in darkness” is a powerful reminder of how important free press is to our societies. There is a great article in the New York Times called “To Anyone Who Thinks Journalists Can’t Change the World”, which lists the recent examples of brave journalists causing an actual change. But it doesn’t have to be big newspapers like the Washington Post or the NYT which advance our society. For the past six months, I worked for a local newspaper in my hometown. Only in these six months, we wrote about firms which were avoiding taxes; the immoral business of recycling, but also small things, such as giving a voice to people who were bullied to leave their apartments or deceived by their banks. A lot of these articles led to action being taken. Some were discussed in the city council, others led to readers collecting money for fraud victims. Local journalism is crucial because it often centres around smaller topics, which affect people in their everyday lives. Be it immoral businesses or corruption in local governments, topics local journalists write about often affect people directly. In the case of the kidnappings in Mexico, the corrupt local mayor and his wife seem to have played a big part in the crime. The only people who had investigated this corruption before were local journalists. Journalists are often at the forefront of the problems in our societies. The media is an important pillar of our democracy.
Here at Hult, you also have a chance to work as a journalist – even if it is on a small scale. The Courage might not be the New York Times or even get discussed in the London city council, but it most certainly can give a voice to people, which are normally unheard, and uncover problems, which would usually be ignored. Even our small university paper can create change. I remember when The Courage reported about the rise in study fees from Hult and the university’s bad communication in this case. I remember many articles, who gave an opinion of students, whose perspective you would normally never hear. I remember when The Courage hosted the “presidential debate” and for the first time asked critical questions to the contesters who were competing for the highest office a student can gain in this university. I believe all these things are crucial for a healthy, democratic student body and I urge you to be a part of it. We are students from many different countries, with many different backgrounds, debating and learning from each other. This is one of the great privileges Hult offers, and our paper is a great platform for that. Our university is still very young and developing very quickly. As many benefits this has, it also can occasionally have its downsides. As a student paper, The Courage can convey the students’ opinions to the administration and be a powerful tool for you if you want to make yourself heard. That The Courage is now also available online is a great development and I really hope you take the chance to contribute a writer, photographer, organiser or even just a source of information to its journalists. I will be looking forward to reading your articles soon. Take up Courage!