Journalists need protection

It would seem that the days when being called a ‘journalist’ meant being something are no more. Back then a media hound had full access to the high and mighty. In fact, the crème de la crème of society sought THEM out instead of vice versa.  Today, things have changed. Globally, journalists risk assault, intimidation, kidnap and even death. 
Somali journalists demostrate against the imprisonment of a journalist.  Net photo.
Somali journalists demostrate against the imprisonment of a journalist. Net photo.

It would seem that the days when being called a ‘journalist’ meant being something are no more. Back then a media hound had full access to the high and mighty. In fact, the crème de la crème of society sought THEM out instead of vice versa.  Today, things have changed. Globally, journalists risk assault, intimidation, kidnap and even death. 

Every so often, we either wake up to the news of the assault or murder of a journalist anywhere in the world. 

On Tuesday March 5, 2013, Absalom Kibanda, the Chairman of Tanzania Editors’ Forum and Managing Editor of New Habari Corporation, was attacked by unknown men outside his house. He was so battered that he is still  hospitalised, according to a story published by In2EastAfrica.

In Somalia, 22 journalists were killed in 2012. On January 18, 2013, Abdihared Osman Adan, a journalist at the Shabelle Media Network was shot several times by unknown men as he left his home to go to work. 

With the above trends, one can say that the safety and security of journalists should be a matter of concern.

In an interview with The New Times, Faith Mbabazi,  Head of Radio Rwanda and President of ARFEM (Association Rwandaise des Femmes des Medias), said that journalism is a tricky career, especially if one specialises in investigative journalism.

“If I zero it down to Rwanda, things have changed compared to yesteryears. Personally, I have never been threatened, but I was once asked to take a bribe to drop a story. If you take a bribe today, you could be threatened the next day if you choose not to take another bribe, there are so many things that could happen to you,” Mbabazi revealed.

“At the end of the day as journalists, we look at the objective of a story and its impact on society. We have pleaded with the Government to decriminalise defamation and we will not stop pleading because it’s not fair to imprison a journalist because of an article they wrote”, she said.

She further added that journalism in other parts of the world is even harder.

“At the end of the day if this is your profession, you need to know that anything can happen because you are trying to uncover things that people want to keep covered. Every time you go to the school of journalism tell yourself, I’m venturing into a business that may not go down well with everybody. In journalism, you will be threatened because you’re driven by the passion to hold people accountable,” she contnued.

Last month, I got the chance to travel to Mexico for a journalism exchange visit organised by Article 19 East Africa and Article 19 Mexico.  We met about 40 Mexican journalists from different regions of Mexico like Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, Hidalgo and Puebla and discussed the situation of journalists in Mexico.

Based on the data compiled in 2011 by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 42 Mexican journalists had been killed over the last five years, making it more deadly than Afghanistan for newsmen and women.

Ivan Pablo Carpus, a journalist with Siglo TV.com, said it’s a real challenge to be a journalist in Mexico. He has previsiously been shot at by unknown people.

“I was close to quitting my profession after my colleagues were kidnapped. But I had to be strong and be there for them when they were released by unknown people after five hours,” Carpus remembered.

Five of the staff members of Siglo TV.com working in different departments were kidnapped on February 5 2013, but were later released after five hours.

He said, “I adviSe journalism schools to always include safety and protection measures in their curriculum so as to prepare journalists for their risky profession. This way they get to fully understand the dangers involved in unveiling the truth.”

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