‘Fake news’, the scary phenomenon that came squealing into our collective consciousness last year, makes it all the more important to actively support press freedom.

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Wednesday 3 May is World Press Freedom Day 2017 – an annual event sponsored by UNESCO and designed to promote media independence.

Journalists are generally held in low regard. However, we hear remarkably little about the journalists who are intimidated, attacked and killed around the world. These are brave people who put their wellbeing on the line to expose wrongdoing, whether by individuals, criminal gangs, companies or states.

As a former newspaper editor, my flesh crawls when I see elements of the media cynically distort and abuse fundamental principles of good journalism. I’m not just talking about phone hacking and the like by UK tabloids. What makes me sick to the stomach is the shabby, shrill, deliberately misleading reporting of major media organisations such as Fox News in the US.

Little surprise so many Americans are so very anxious about the world outside their picket fence when they have a 24-7 high-fat, super-size diet of hyperbole and distortion disseminated by cynical, rating-chasing hacks and their handlers at Fox News.

So here’s a personal pledge you can make on World Press Freedom Day 2017: every time you hear a politician of whatever hue taking cheap shots at the BBC, do something about it. Use Twitter and Facebook to stick up for a news organisation that set and maintains the global gold standard for independent and impartial media coverage.

Journalists are dying, literally, to save you from fake news. If you value truth and honesty, then value the good journalists – they deserve your respect, your gratitude and, most importantly, your active support. 

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