Sunday, July 25, 2010
Is the fight for press freedom a lost battle?
The news links below are only a few samples of dozens of reports that we read everyday about how journalists are being gagged and how press freedom is under constant compromise. It leaves one despondent as to whether Africa and the world at large will ever get the winning formula.
Chilly winds are blowing around South African media
FXI condemns Protection of Information Bill in present form
New law may force reporters to reveal sources
Swazi station forced to stop televising religious program
Ivory Coast journalists charged following corruption story
Somali government steps up media crackdown
The answer, sadly is "No." Universal, untainted press freedom will always be a pipe dream, utopian ideal that is likely to remain in the journalistic womb, never to be born into the real world. Whenever we think we have it right in one place, we hear of other places where journalists and writers have been jailed, where publications have been forcibly shut down, and oppressive press laws introduced. While it is true that checks and balances need to be in place to avoid irresponsible, malicious and false reporting, the law is often abused to prevent the populace from knowing about the underhanded ways of their so-called leaders.
Is it therefore futile to attempt to stem this onslaught on free journalism by shameless haters of the truth? Is it time for us to admit that the sword has overcome the pen? Absolutely not. Although total press freedom has and never will be a reality, the pen has claimed the heads of many despots and brought enlightenment to many. Without the many brave, honest and often suffering slaves of the keyboard, the world would be far from a better place. Hopefully as we venture deeper into the electronic information highway, these oppressors will lose their grubby grip, overwhelmed by the information traffic that threatens to run them over, should they insist on standing in its way.