Why we need a Day of Prayer for the Media

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has prompted global outrage, with G7 foreign ministers calling for a 'transparent' inquiry into the issue and companies pulling out of a Saudi business conference.

What is unusual about the Khashoggi case is not that a journalist has gone missing with fears that he has been murdered, but that a reporter's disappearance has caused such an outpouring of international indignation.

Because, sadly, we are living in very dangerous times for the media.

ReutersSaudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi spoke at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London, September 29, 2018

BBC director-general Tony Hall told the Society of Editors earlier this month: 'In country after country, repression of the media seems to have become a new norm. The persecution and imprisonment of journalists for simply doing their job is all too commonplace.'

He spoke of 'war correspondents, the bravest of the brave, being deliberately targeted by regular armies' and how 29-year-old BBC correspondent Ahmad Shah had been shot dead in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Even before Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, the New York Times was headlining 'A deadly year for journalists' and pointing out the growing risk to reporters 'even in democratic countries where press freedom has been seen as an essential part of civil society'.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-profit organisation, estimates that 44 journalists have been killed so far this year, outpacing 2017.

BBC1 recently screened Press, a series following the staff of a London-based left-leaning broadsheet newspaper, competing with a thriving popular tabloid. Many journalists were critical of how they were depicted on screen.

Yet it did bring home some of the everyday pressures faced by journalists seeking to do their job against tight budgets, short deadlines and the temptation to cut corners to get results.

In the UK, regional and local newspapers are closing because of advertising moving online, with remaining journalists being asked to undertake greater workloads. The government has launched an inquiry to see how quality journalism can be safeguarded.

In London, St Bride's Church in Fleet Street, known as the 'spiritual home of the media' or 'the Journalists' church' has a long history of supporting those who work in the media. The church has a dedicated 'Journalists' Altar' for prayer.

Now Christians and churches across the UK are being encouraged to mark Sunday November 4 as a Day of Prayer for the Media. It's being organised by The MediaNet, a UK network that supports, encourages and inspires Christians who work in, and with, the media.

In support of the day, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, the Bishop of Repton, Jan McFarlane and the Bishop of Dudley, Graham Usher, have joined others in writing prayers for the media.

Archbishop Sentamu's prayer reads:

Lord Jesus Christ, you speak and bring all that is seen and unseen into being: we give you thanks for the gift of the media to reach the far flung places of the earth with messages of hope and life.

We give you thanks for those who risk their security and even their lives to expose injustice and to bring news of hope.

May they strive to be the bearers of good news that all people may come to know the abundant life for which we have been created; and yet more wonderfully redeemed in Jesus Christ.

We offer our prayer in your name, in the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father.

Amen.

The MediaNet is encouraging churches to include prayers for the media, and those who work in or with it, in their services on Sunday November 4, and has produced a web area with ideas.

It says: 'At its best, the media gives a voice to the voiceless, holds the powerful to account, and highlights unjust practices while entertaining us and keeping us informed.

'As Christians we affirm and support the media's vital role in our society. We promote the highest standards in the media, and give our backing to the vast majority of people working in media as they strive for integrity and truth.'

Rev Peter Crumpler is associate minister at St Leonard's Church, Sandridge, Herts, and former director of communications for the Church of England's Archbishops' Council.

For Day of Prayer for the Media resources click here.

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