A statement on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day – May 3, 2012
The celebration of World Press Freedom Day every 3rd day of May finds its roots to the “Windhoek Declaration”, a statement for press freedom put forward by African press in 1991 during a seminar initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “Promoting Independent and Pluralistic African Press”, in an earnest desire to compel African states to respect press freedom. The scene was Africa and the year was 1991. Back then and back there, journalists were harassed, intimidated, killed or were driven out of their country.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, twenty-one years later we are experiencing the very same situation in our midst.
Harassment, intimidation and killing of journalists have become so common, earning us a place in the “most dangerous country” list for journalists. Majority of the victims were provincial journalists working in politically volatile areas where warlords and criminal gangs reign supreme over the rule of law.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, the government remains totally helpless, either by choice or by design, to curtail the reign of terror that continues to wreak havoc on press freedom.
The deaths of these hapless chroniclers had become mere part of the statistics that are being debated upon every now and then by government officials, whose best performance is lip service, and media advocates who can only sigh at the ineptitude and indifference of law enforcement agencies. Orphans and widows continue to thirst for justice as their numbers continue to pile up.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, the debates seemed far from over as harassments, intimidations and killings continue to terrorize the bearers of the message.
But even as we agonize on these facts that undoubtedly are ascribable to the government, there are also some realities that are attributable to the working press itself which bring about similar effects, or even worse. Manipulated press is worse than coerced press, but prostitution of the press is the worst kind.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, this is a reality that worsens by the day as more and more so-called media practitioners who are prompted by monetary gains rather than the genuine desire to be bearers of truth continue to multiply in number.
Media prostitution had become so rampant such that it had become the norm rather than the exception to the point that advocating for ethical practice endangers one to be ostracized.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, this practice seemed to be tolerated, and even encouraged, by media company owners and gate-keepers who are supposed to police their ranks as they too are driven by profit.
However, what they tend to overlook or conveniently ignore are the ill-effects of such practice which put them on the firing-line of the hooligans hired by those they have wronged, that they are merely used as pawns by their patrons and would be conveniently disposed of once they have outlived their usefulness.
Sadly, and quite alarmingly, we don’t see this malady bottoming out in the most immediate time.
Thus, we make these appeals:
To the government, to act with dispatch and serious concern all the cases brought before it by journalists and media workers, be it on issue of security or labor.
To the media company owners, to temper their desire for profit and give more weight on the ethical practice of their workers.
To the media gate-keepers, to show good example in the proper practice of the craft giving great emphasis to work ethics and objectivity in the pursuit of truth.
To our comrades in the profession, to shun media prostitution, render meaningful service to the community, to observe the tenets of journalistic profession with emphasis on ethics, fair play and objectivity.
To the community in general, to be vigilant in their appreciation of the media and bring to its attention any abuse or unethical practice by any media worker which undermine the delivery of right information, public order and safety.
To all of us, let us join hands in keeping a real free press, a press that is free from fear for its security, a press that is free from economic wants and a press that is free the dangers of unethical practice.
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