Tuesday, May 3 was International Press Freedom Day. Each year, the day advocates for freedom of information and freedom of expression of the press corps around the world.
Scholars define press as a collective means of communication by which the general public or populace is kept informed about the day to day happenings in society.
This day is significant because a populace needs to be well informed in order to be good and responsible citizens of their countries.
Considerably, independent press around the world has emerged as some of the most powerful forces in the struggle to change closed regimes into open and productive societies.
The move towards democracy and free markets has been carried out in earnest across the globe, especially since the end of the Cold War.
New technology, which continues to evolve, allows the public to further shape their media environments as well as access a plurality of sources. The combination of access to information and public participation in media continues to contribute to an increased sense of ownership and empowerment.
Modern societies could not be imagined without mass communication. Television, newspapers, the radio and the internet are the main sources of information for citizens all around the globe today.
Contemporary democratic theory appreciated the media’s role in ensuring governments were held accountable.
In both new and old democracies, the notion of the media as watchdog and not merely a passive recorder of events is still widely accepted.
Governments, it is observed, cannot be held accountable if citizens are ill informed about the actions of officials and institutions.
Modern-day democrats are as hyperbolic in their praise of the press. Despite the present-day mass media’s propensity for sleaze, sensationalism and superficiality, they are still seen as essential democratic tools.
They argue that media can provide voice to those marginalized because of poverty, gender, or ethnic or religious affiliation.
By giving these groups a place in the media, their views – and their afflictions – become part of mainstream public debate and hopefully contribute to a social consensus that the injustices against them ought to be redressed.
In this way, the media also contributes to the easing of social conflicts and to promoting reconciliation among divergent social groups. This fosters an environment of civic inclusivity in which citizens, irrespective of their status, can help shape the development agenda of their societies, and express solidarity.
Democracy requires such platforms for participation of each citizen. Thus, the free press enables every citizen to be engaged in the business of governance by informing and educating the public.
This is why in many societies today; media has become a tool of choice and is becoming more accessible. They have proven their effectiveness as instruments for promoting grassroots democracy by airing local issues and providing alternative sources of information.
Emphatically, information changes the way we see the world around us, our place in it, and how to adjust our lives in order to maximize the benefits available through our local resources. Fact driven decision-making can significantly alter our political, social and economic perspectives.
Therefore, open and pluralistic media are, perhaps, most precious when they provide the mirror for society to see itself. These moments of reflection are instrumental in defining community objectives, making course corrections when society or its leaders have lost touch with each other.
Even though free, independent and pluralistic media afford citizens the opportunity to participate in public life and many more benefits, there must be access to accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a plurality of opinions, and the means to actively communicate vertically and horizontally, thereby contributing positively to the active life of the community.
The quest for access to reliable reports, analyses, discussions, debates and so forth affairs is paramount.
This implies that media must use their freedom of expression to exhibit the democratic-civic values of respect, integrity, inclusiveness and plurality. Good reporters are very vital and important the communities and their nations as any professional or government person. In other words, the media should help to build the culture of democracy and also serve the role of developmental enculturation.
Democracy will not function if such virtues as tolerance and willingness to follow democratic principles and procedures do not have grounding in everyday life. We should endeavor to cultivate a culture of respect for the rule of law in which just laws are upheld in all the media operations. It should be freedom that endavours to build a nation and not to tear it apart.
For such to flourish, our esteemed media practitioners must learn what is of interest to the country, their readers, listeners and viewers and provide them with reports that are useful to them.
It should be in our context and not merely freedom where internal rules are bypassed. In a nut shell, free media without a moral position is impossible.