Foreign correspondent Peter Godwin discusses democracy and freedom of press


Peter Godwin examines the important of the free press in the modern age.

Jason Piccolomini, Staff Writer

Iona’s annual “Week of the Peacemaker” took place from Oct. 24 to Oct. 29. For over 30 years, the school has decided to dedicate a week to peacemaking.  
The many events that Iona hosted revolved around this year’s theme called “Cutting Through the Noise: Dialogue in an Age of Polarization.” This year’s theme was meant to highlight the importance of having important conversations about pressing topics such as race, gender, sexuality and other topics that might be difficult for some to talk about. Throughout the past year, people all over the world have fought for their voices to be heard on issues that mattered to them. Conversations about topics that are considered taboo are difficult to have for people who are not affected by the issues. Peter Godwin spoke about several topics that are difficult to discuss during the event “Speaking Truth to Power: Democracy, Authoritarianism, and the Role of the Free Press.”  


Race was the first topic of conversation for Peter Godwin. Godwin was born in South Africa which is known as a primarily Black country. Being a white man in South Africa was difficult for Godwin. He discussed segregation issues as well as experiencing a violent upbringing in South Africa. Godwin’s journalism career started off covering foreign wars and his hand in war influenced his career path. At the age of 17, Godwin fought in the Rhodesian Bush War, a war that his sister unfortunately did not survive in. Godwin’s tough early life was only the beginning of the issues about which he talked. 


Godwin discussed politics and what South Africa was versus what it strived to be. It was an authoritarian system that fought to be a democracy. Today, South Africa is known as a democracy, but a flawed and dysfunctional one. Political corruptness is possible if there is no free press and South Africa didn’t experience free press until 1996. England, where Godwin lived for years, doesn’t guarantee freedom of the press. It’s easy for us to take freedom of the press granted here in the United States since it’s always been this way. 


Godwin stuck with politics in the United States and talked a little about Donald Trump. Godwin told the audience to not listen to his rants against “fake news,” which is extremely harmful to the world of journalism. Godwin warned future reporters to not post anything on the web that they wouldn’t say in public, or wouldn’t say to the person. To follow up on the advice given, Godwin also said how important it is to be alert of what is being posted because the web knows everything you’re doing all the time. “The web is always watching” is what Godwin said, and if Instagram ads have taught us anything it’s that Godwin is completely right. You could Google “shoes” or just be talking about shoes, and you’ll immediately be flooded with ads of the shoes you were talking about. Like Godwin said, the web is always watching.  


It was a fantastic event that gave students a look into a life that is unimaginable for many. It puts into perspective how many people have had those early life struggles. Many people who have experienced similar upbringings such as Godwin might not have the same platform to tell their story, but Godwin tries to make sure their voices are heard through his voice.