Aug 21 2007

Press freedom

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 12:28 AM

The brief call last week by the New Vision to respect the freedom of African journalists is worth repeating in full — is further evidence of the steady maturation of media in the region:

“THE landscape of media freedom in Africa in the past few months is gloomy. In Somalia, six journalists have been killed, in Eritrea at least eight have fled the country and two others are missing and feared dead. In July, two journalists in Congo were arrested for offending the president, and in Nairobi, hundreds of Kenyan journalists yesterday marched in silent protest against a new media bill that would force them to disclose their sources for any story that gives rise to a legal dispute. If the bill is passed, freedom of expression will be at risk.
“In Uganda, many have been beaten up, threatened, intimidated, insulted or had their equipment destroyed by various groups. On Tuesday, a gang in Nakivubo beat up a New Vision journalist. His ‘crime’ was taking a picture of a channel that was pouring sewerage into Nakivubo Settlement School.
“Journalism is a cardinal pillar of democracy that keeps alive free flow of information. Journalists play the watchdog role for society. Journalists may get it wrong from time to time, but they are not always entirely to blame. The Access to Information Act is in place but it is not operational. Though on paper public information is open, it is still extremely difficult having access to basic information in this country. Statistics are scarce and often treated as classified.
“In most cases, only the permanent secretaries or ministers can talk to the press and they are not readily available. Journalists are left with no option, but to piece up bits and pieces of information, with the risk of making errors.
“On our part, as journalists we need to exercise uttermost professionalism to dislodge critics. There is need to be thorough, accurate, balanced, fair, honest and resilient to ensure that detractors of democracy are not armed with excuses to fight press freedom.
“For the press to play an effective facilitating role to democracy, it is important and in everybody’s interest, that journalists be allowed to do their work without intimidation because that is the only way information will flow to serve the communities.”

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