3 May was declared World Press Freedom by the United Nations General Assembly, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.
It is a day to raise awareness of freedom of the press and to remind governments of its commitment to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitutions of our various states. World Press Freedom Day, 2019 is being celebrated under the theme: “Media for Democracy, Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.”
It is no secret that we live in a politically charged global community. This is even more so for countries with a robust two-party system, like Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Resultantly, we as journalists, must be overly cautious in our politically sensitive communities by being extremely prudent in our reporting practices, especially in election seasons.
We are to look at ourselves as the vanguards of free and fair elections. We are to consider ourselves as the drivers of democracy, by relaying, in an impartial manner, all the issues which threaten democracy within society. While equally keeping the population abreast of all the happenings in the country. This is especially important, given Grenada’s peculiar position, as being a three-time one-party controlled government.
Over the years, there has been numerous accusations against members of our profession, as it relates to this very theme, Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation. In light of this, I urge you to stay focus and stand firm. Be cognisant of situations that create the forum for such accusations, which makes some question the credibility of the information shared by us through our various media platforms. Do not be afraid to dispel rumours of political biases. We are to be cautious of becoming overly associated with any political arm. This does not do us well, but rather negatively affects our viewership and readership.
Do not be afraid to highlight issues, but I warn do so in a professional manner, investigate your leads, cross reference your information from sources, and then release your stories. The ease with which information is disseminated is at an all-time high, owing to the social media takeover. This makes it very easy for misinformation to be widely circulated. This calls for us to be professional sifters; separating the issues from the emotions. It is a tedious task, but one that is warranted.
The principles of this noble profession should be taken seriously in every sense of the word. We need, as a body, to encourage the celebration of the fundamental principles of press freedom; defend the media from any form of attack that will have a negative impact on its independence. There is no doubt that we face an array of challenges in executing our duties, however we need to take a quick pause and reflect on our main role, and try our utmost best to be the changers; do not allow others outside of the profession to chart your course for you. Our profession has been under attack for decades, and if we do not hold firm to certain principles, we just might lose the fight to remain relevant, and be the watch dogs that society so wants us to be.
In closing, as we observe this very important day, today 3 May, I urge you to take a moment to reflect on the past year, by putting things into greater perspective to better serve on as the fourth estate.