The Film

Seen from behind, a white man holds a video camera and films several black men and women talking to the camera

The first role of journalism is to monitor power.
—Amira Hass, correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz

DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE: The Global Struggle for an Independent Press follows teams of journalists into some of the most dangerous and secretive corners of the world to show how they obtain their stories in the face of suppression, lies, imprisonment and threat of physical harm. To highlight the central role a free press plays in building and preserving democracy, Producer/Director Cal Skaggs and his team combed through two hundred hours of footage to create this dynamic portrayal of independent-minded journalists.

A free press is the canary in the coalmine of democracy. When leaders infringe on journalists’ ability to investigate and report information, a free society suffocates.   —Filmmaker Cal Skaggs

At their best, courageous journalists share a common mission worldwide: bearing witness to the truth as they see it in order to serve their fellow citizens, providing them accurate information, acting as their watchdog over those who hold power and speaking out in behalf of those who have none. Journalists inform; they warn; they analyze and interpret, all to help the public make sense of the world.

From Africa to Latin America, from the Middle East to Russia to the mainstream media in the United States, DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE looks at how members of the news media fulfill their common mission.

  • In Mexico: A broadcast journalist tests Mexico’s new-found democratic freedom by blasting open a culture of secrecy and corruption.
  • In Israel: Journalists hold up a mirror to show their people and their government hard truths neither wants to know.
  • In Russia: Journalists struggle to report the truth under a darkening cloud of fear, misinformation and increasing governmental control.
  • In Nigeria and Sierra Leone: Journalists give birth to a free press after having survived prison and exile.
  • In Afghanistan: An American correspondent stretches to cover both the U.S./NATO military operation and the struggles ordinary Afghans go through every day.
  • In the United States: American journalists struggle to get behind the curtain of “spin” woven by government officials and to expose some of the darker practices of the war on terror.

Throughout, the film provides vivid reminders of how valuable serious journalism is, and how vigilantly it must be practiced to ensure the health of democracy. American viewers who see how valiantly journalists elsewhere must work to tell the truth may hold their own press corps responsible for a greater degree of truth-telling. Viewers get a comparative look at the state of the press around the world, and see that the walls of secrecy that stand in the way of press freedom can be toppled. DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE sheds light on the pivotal role journalists must play around the globe.

There has to be an independent voice. If there's no independent voice then what you'll have is no democracy. 
––Hanna Foullah, Radio Democracy, Sierra Leone

Read about filmmaker Cal Skaggs's motivation for making this film >>

Learn about how technology has changed journalism >>

Find resources to further explore the state of independent media >>


Home | The Film | The Journalists | Internet Journalism | Who Owns the Media?
Filmmaker Bio | Filmmaker Q&A | Learn More | Get Involved | Talkback | Site Credits

Get The DVD Talkback Get Involved Learn More Filmmaker Q&A Filmmaker Bio Who Owns the Media? Internet Journalism The Journalists The Film Meet the journalists  >> DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE More >>