Yesterday marked the World Press Freedom Day. This international commemoration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference two years earlier in 1991.
The declaration was also a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence. This is the day when journalists should reflect on their work, their ethical conduct as well as the challenges they face in obtaining and taking important information to the people, which information some people somewhere do not want it known.
In recent years, the media has undergone a crucial transformation as a result of technological advances that gave birth to social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat and others.
These platforms have provided space for anyone to broadcast or publish any material without going through any form of verification. This has not only dented the image of journalists and the media industry in general, it has also created a lot of confusion among consumers of information who are often left with unanswered questions. Some people have made it their business to publish obscene and graphic images on social media; others publish images of fatal accidents, whilst others announce deaths before victims’ next of kin have been notified.
Whilst the social media has made communication easy and convenient, some of our fellow compatriots have resorted to abusing it in the name of freedom of expression.
We therefore urge the mainstream media to continue spreading verified information and being
We also appeal to the authorities to release information on time to ensure that the public is well informed on issues pertaining to their day-to-day struggles. The public can only make informed decisions if there is free flow of information from public offices whether negative or positive. The last general elections results are a clear indication that a secretive Government has no place in our society because the more secretive it becomes, the more speculative information is spread among citizens.
Further, the recent events have proven that the more secretive the Government becomes, the more corruption takes root in society.
It is time the Government formulates Freedom of Information Law to ensure that public officers, including politicians, are answerable to the public as and when the information is requested. Our Courts should also continue to open doors for the public and journalists, and avail information as and when requested. We are living in the information age in which information is shared among millions of people in the split of a second.
Long live free media, long live democracy.
“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in Government.”
- Hugo Black