World Press Freedom Day: A call for a new leaf

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World Press Freedom Day

Today is not a “Mothers’ Day” celebration, but World Press Freedom Day. This may not sound nice to many people because journalists hardly celebrate themselves. But, I wish I could assemble all the birds in the sky and every human who have come to appreciate what journalism means; to sing, like the popular hallelujah chorus, the adulation of journalists around the world.

It’s rather sad that we are living in a society where journalists are hardly celebrated for taking the risk to keep the society together and making the world a better place. Sadly, most power players see journalists as perpetual enemies for holding them accountable, while a greater part of masses whom they exist to serve, see journalists as unnecessary interlopers. Whichever way, we can only imagine how the world would have fared if there were no journalists.

This year’s theme, “The Press for The Planet”, is a complete departure from the usual catchy phrase that should characterise a celebration like this. It’s a reminder that journalists’ role in solving world’s triple planetary crisis —climate change, biodiversity loss, and air pollution— dis-/misinformation campaigns challenge knowledge and scientific research methods cannot be swept under the carpet. The world needs journalists to set agenda, build on the agenda and force a change that will preserve the earth for the unborn generation.

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Back home; as a journalist, I have reflected on areas of concern we must amend in the cause of mediating between those in power and the led. Most times we are accused of causing misinformation or misrepresentation of facts. This is not true. Journalists are not news makers, but purveyors of news. Our sole responsibility is to tell the story the way it is with stints of responsibility in mind. However, it is time for us to redefine our relationship with powers that be and members of the society in order to keep our heads high.

As members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, they should not at any time sound condescending before anybody. Journalism is not a beggarly profession and journalists should not reduce themselves to this level.

It is an unacceptable fact that news stories have been commoditised because of biting economic situation in the country, and the need to stay afloat in a competitive market. However, this shouldn’t warrant any journalist to go cap in hand in the name of pushing to stay in the market.

Journalists should refrain from taking copies of newspapers to politicians after publishing their stories. The duty of newspaper distribution rests mainly on the shoulders of vendors. Journalists are not vendors and they should not be forced to act like vendors, no matter the circumstances.

This year’s Press Freedom Day should call for domestication of Freedom of Information Act in all states of the federation. If this is done, the hurdles of getting access to critical information will reduce. This also will invariably reduce the level of speculation, misinformation and disinformation that sometimes occurs when information is in want, or, completely withheld by government officials who are supposed to act as information liaisons in this regard.

However, as we keep praying for our colleagues who are on the firing line, we hope that this day will give all journalists reason to redefine their angle and slant of story -telling.

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