Championing Freedom of the Press In Light of Banned Books Week
Concerns about freedom of the press in B2B media in the U.S. revolve around whether we should be free of advertiser influence in the form of native advertising. That makes us pretty lucky. Imagine if you covered an industry in Russia, Egypt, or Venezuela. Criticizing a large company with government ties or reporting on a soft market might get your publication closed down and reporters jailed. Or worse.
It is never a bad time to remind ourselves how critical press freedom is, not just to our businesses but our lives. In my underground press days we had our offices raided by local police. While publishing High Times, clerks at a few convenience stores were arrested for selling our magazine. This is chump change when reporters and editors in some countries are jailed indefinitely or murdered.
Recently I was asked to discuss why a free press is important to a society on an Ethiopian talk show. Ethiopia has no free press. In a listing by The Committee to Protect Journalists they were ranked fourth worst in the world in suppressing free speech. North Korea was number one. Seth Rogan and James Franco can explain to you what it means to be on the same page of repression rankings with North Korea.
Ethiopian Satellite and Radio (ESAT) is a network run by the Ethiopian diaspora broadcasting dozens of programs into their homeland. Most are in Amharic, the national language. The Ethiopian government has shut down six satellite feeds so far in trying to prevent this network from reaching the people. According to the Washington Post there have been illegal cyber-attacks on the network. Fortunately the internet makes it impossible for most governments to block information completely.
My friend AZ, aka Dr. Assegid Habtewold, produces an English language show. Despite the lockdown, thousands of Ethiopian business owners, professionals, and community leaders are able to see webcasts of The WWH Show (Who, What, How). I was proud to bring some of my hard-earned wisdom on this topic with people aspiring to be free. You can view it here.
This is Banned Books Week, an appropriate time to check out my appearance on “Why freedom of the press is key to the health of a society.” Sorry to say they had a problem with AZ’s mic, making some of the questions difficult to hear. However, most of this is myself sharing insights on a topic all of us American publishers usually take for granted.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.