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Message From IFAJ President Lena Johansson

When the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov, it was a statement for Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression. And as the committee itself expresses it: “…they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

Free press and free speech are the pillars of democracy. We should all be very grateful to those who are brave enough to defend this, despite harassment, threats, violence and even murder. Since January 2021 a total of 44 media workers have been killed, while doing their job. And at the end of November almost 500 media workers are imprisoned, according to Reporters without borders.

In my part of the world, we are lucky to have the opportunity to express ourselves freely, and sometimes the discussions are lively and loud. Forestry has for many years been an important industry in the Nordic countries, but lately it has been much debated. Even if our forestry is considered to be gentle, the environmental movement says it’s best for the climate if we stop the felling. This would be a big interruption both for the industry and export, but not least for lots of farmers, for whom the forest is an important source of income. Almost every Swedish farmer grow forest as an important complement to crop farming and animal husbandry.

Newspapers, radio, and TV are reporting about the forestry debate, but since very few, not even national media, have specialized agricultural journalists, the reporting is rather shallow, contains mistakes and are sometimes even biased. Instead of having ag journalists they often let environmental journalists report about agriculture and forestry, and they usually have a different angle.

When the number of farmers is decreasing media don’t think they need specialized ag reporters, but agriculture is not only for farmers. We are all depending on agriculture, and therefore it’s in everybody’s interest to have media who can both report and review the agricultural industry in a serious and knowledgeable way. I envy those countries who still have specialized agriculture reporters in general media and a lively, fact-based reporting about the ag business.

Some days ago, I went to a tango concert, to commemorate that it was 100 years since the famous Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla was born. And how I enjoyed it. It reminded me of the IFAJ congress in Argentina 2013 and how much I have missed not to be able to travel. It’s so encouraging to hear about the preparations our colleagues in Denmark are doing. They are convinced they will be able to arrange an in-person congress this summer. And I’m really longing to see you all again, learn more about Danish agriculture and discuss agricultural journalism with colleagues from all over the world. 

I’ve said it before, but we have an important mission. Agriculture and forestry won’t be less important in the future. It will change, but it will continue to be crucial.

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