Wherever there is freedom of the press in the world, "scarcity is its greatest threat", a peril that affects both public and private media and that can only be tackled with "the structural strength of journalistic companies", says the president of Agencia EFE, Gabriela Cañas.
May 3 is International Press Freedom Day, a right that does not exist in many countries. But when it is taken for granted in others, "it exposes you to all kinds of pressures, and that is fatal, because you also have an appearance of freedom that deep down you don't have, which is almost the worst thing," Cañas says in an interview.
The president of EFE arrived a year ago at the Spanish international news agency with the added "weight" of being the first woman at the head of the institution in its 82-year history and with the aim of boosting its already established reputation in the world news scene.
But it is not a particularly heavy "weight", as she never thought that her current position was unattainable. Perhaps it is the result of her upbringing: "I never thought about it. We were four sisters and my father was an enthusiast of the four of us, anything we did seemed good to him," Cañas explains.
And now, at 63, the fact of being one of the few women in the world to hold such a position represents a personal challenge as well as the chance of "being an example".
"A few days ago we analyzed the top ten agencies in the world and we saw that the only one with a woman at the helm is EFE. This should not only be a mirror for women, but also for men and for the whole sector, which is very masculinized, and a spur for other agencies to think about what they are doing", she says.
A WOMAN'S POINT OF VIEW
A steadfast feminist, "because feminism is equality," Cañas has been involved in equality issues throughout her career: "I have always been interested in them, they have always seemed very important to me. There was a time when I thought the battle was lost, I didn't see the impetus from women".
However, she appreciates that at present things are changing "in a very radical and positive way", both socially and journalistically.
"Spain has been a very important standard-bearer for equality. And I don't want to talk only about women, I think that in recent years, above all, there have been a lot of men who are in favor of this, and who recognize that equality is a benefit for everyone," she says.
That is why it is important to have a "woman's point of view" in the media "that has been a refuge, a resistance of men" until a few years ago.
"The world has been told to us by men. There are areas in the media that are a scandal of masculinization and misogyny, for example the opinion or culture sections," she says.
A woman's point of view "not only can change things a lot, it is already changing them," says Cañas. "Twenty years ago, the media did not dedicate space to abuse or domestic violence. This has been opening up because there has been pressure from women, and also from many men, on some issues that are very important," she says.
Cañas exemplifies this situation in the King of Spain Awards for International Journalism, organized annually by EFE and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
"There are a lot of very good works that deal with the issue of equality, female mistreatment, women's inequality, the problems they have in countries where abortion is not allowed even in cases of rape. This issue has made its way into the world of communication. And at EFE we are in that line, since before I came here. And we have to continue in this direction, because women make up half the world," she explains.
RETURNING TO TRUTHFUL, VERIFIED INFORMATION
The president of EFE highlights providing accurate information amid the huge impact of social media as one of the challenges facing the current global news landscape, for “killing us press agencies as well as the media."
"There has always been fake news. The difference is that now there are very powerful social networks with enormous potential consequences with a flagrant lack of responsibility. There we have the example of Donald Trump," she points out.
That is why Cañas reminds us of the media’s obligation to correct any false information, "an obvious principle of professional deontology", while on social media "nobody takes charge".
"This has completely transformed the world of communication. It is doing us a lot of harm from the political and economic point of view, and from the point of view of information and education, because in the end (journalists) also educate," she says.
Fact checking, which the Spanish international news agency carries out from its EFE Verifica section, "is part of our lifelong work, but we have to consider that we are doing it as self-defense, we are defending ourselves from something that is extremely harmful to democracies," says Cañas.
EFE's verification tool was born in Spain, but it is doing important work in other parts of the world, such as Latin America, a region of special interest for the Agency, since it is its “natural market".
"We are well established in Latin America and the project is to strengthen it. And in this sense, EFE Verifica is very important, because with the pandemic there has been a major explosion of fake news which is very dangerous for public health, and we are doing a very interesting work that should be expanded", the president of EFE explains.
In spite of everything, Cañas is optimistic about the future: "People will return to truthful information on their own. Once we have lived through this explosion of social media, and given the lack of credibility of so many people who use them, people will return to the origins of information and to the journalism of old, which is what guarantees good, neutral and truthful information, although the truth always has many corners". EFE