The press also known as the Fourth Estate is a key pillar to the functioning of any democratic society,carrying an importance above the other three Estates.
The crux of the matter being in the determination of media accountability; independence and freedom in that given society, matters that journalists from the Great Lakes Region, meeting in Kigali, are pondering at a three-day joint International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The meeting has brought together the 11 ICGLR member States and representatives of major media bodies that include the Rwanda High Council of the Media, Media Foundation of Ghana, National Media coordinators of the Great Lakes Region as well as the relevant United Nations Agencies.
The basis of the meeting was to consider, discuss and find lasting solutions to the challenges facing media development and the promotion of freedom and professionalism of the Media in the Great Lakes Region.
In Tanzania on November 20, 2004, under Article 33 of the Dar-es-salaam Declaration, the 11 member States made a pact to promote independent and responsible media. They also agreed to adhere and protect universal laws directly relating to the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right to information.
However, with all these pacts and agreements signed and declared, the media in the Great Lakes Region has for decades continued to move around the same challenges.
Political instability, stagnantisation due to infrastructural and technological problems, inadequacy of media laws and regulatory bodies including the sheer lack of media professionalism, ethics and credibility.
Coupled with the elusiveness if not confusing definition of the concept of press freedom. Whose press? Or whose freedom? become fundamental questions to raise in determining the parameters of that freedom.
The answer possibly lies under, ‘Who and what determines media ethics and freedom?’ For the States in the Great Lakes Region to succeed in this matter, the media has to strike a balance between the public and the State, as they are watchdogs of both.
In this regard the media should not be quick to forget the basic principles of good journalism.
These revolve around accuracy, impartiality, responsibility, sensitivity to human nature in terms of cultural beliefs, religion, race and freedom of expression and access to information.