Ideas

Five Freedoms: Freedom from Lies

Freedom of the press is a Holy Grail in Western societies, supposedly giving us the facts about what's happening in the world. But in an era of fake news, post-truth and a 24-hour news cycle, what are journalists to hang onto? A discussion with journalists Susan Ormiston and Desmond Cole, and writer Linda McQuaig.
Does someone - a journalist - just sit down and plan to write lies? (Shutterstock)
Listen to the full episode53:59

** This episode was originally published April 12, 2019.

In his 1941 State of the Union address, American president Franklin Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that he believed all people were entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from fear and freedom from want.

IDEAS has been exploring the meaning of freedom in a series of discussions recorded at the Stratford Festival

Freedom from Lies

The Guardian newspaper tell us that as of 21 January 2019, President Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading statements since coming to office.

After we're done pitying the unfortunate person who had to figure all that out, our heads are swimming trying to figure out the relationship between "truth" and "alternative facts". The pond where truth and lies swim together has become increasingly murky.

Surely the role of the media is ultimately to expose the truth, and so therefore we have a huge responsibility to expose the lies about what Donald Trump is saying.- Linda McQuaig

But the responsibility to sort out the murkiness, to tell the truth as they see it, to disentangle the frail body of truth from the miasma of misdirection and outright lies — that's the job of journalists everywhere.

Freedom of the press is supposedly a defining feature of Western societies, and journalists are generally under the impression that their job is to give us the facts about what's happening in the world.

There's a lot of lip service to this ideal, but in an era of fake news, post-truth and a 24-hour news cycle, what are journalists to hang onto?

Where might you find the truth anyway, and who might tell it to you? And does your editor, your paper, your producer, have your back?

And if these are the problems for journalists: what about the problems for you, the reader, listener, viewer?

This episode features a discussion with journalists Susan Ormiston and Desmond Cole, and writer Linda McQuaig.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author on politics and current affairs. 0:52


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**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.