A journalist’s first obligation is to the truth while his loyalty is to citizens. It is however saddening that all over the world, press men and women have continued to suffer several occupational hazards ranging from insults to threats and attacks for trying to fulfill their professional obligation and defend the truth which they owe the public.
In the words of Pauline Adès-Mèvel (head of the EU and Balkans desk at Reporters Without Borders), “information is a right in theory, but in practice, it is not anymore.” This is undoubtedly true owing to the fact that almost every nation of the world claims to be an ardent supporter of total press freedom, yet there is no such thing as total press freedom anywhere in the world.
Journalists do not have unrestrained liberty to write or publish information. For reporting the truth, media men and women now stand the risk of losing their lives and that’s like saying for spilling the ink, they stand the risk of having their blood spilled. With each passing day, authoritarian and dictatorial leaders continue to stiffen their clutch on the press and sponsor attacks on them forgetting that press freedom is imperative to development of any nation.
Journalists serve as watchdogs of the society but are being treated as hunted dogs in the hands of authoritarian leaders. This leaves one with a vital question, “if press men and women are attacked and locked up as criminals for reporting the truth, would they be applauded and treated as heroes if they reported lies?” If this question isn’t answered properly, then it will be improbable to think that the future would be any better for journalism.
The significance of the media in the society cannot be over emphasized. Perhaps former American president Thomas Jefferson understood this fact when he declared that if he had a choice, he would prefer media without government than government without the media. The 2019 press freedom index clearly stated that “hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear.” When journalists begin to discharge their duties in fear, then democracy can be said to be under threat. Quoting Pauline Adès-Mèvel again, “the number of countries regarded as safe countries where journalists can work in a proper condition, in complete security, is declining month after month, year after year.” This leaves us with another question. Is the sword becoming mightier than the pen? If the pen is still being considered to be superior to the sword, then journalists should be allowed to discharge their duties without unnecessary interference and attacks from the government. They should be allowed to serve the truth undiluted because if it’s diluted, it’s not truth.
Authoritarian leaders should realise that attacking the press can’t bury the truth neither does it mean journalists will be so shaken and frightened to deviate from their professional ethics.
Journalists shouldn’t be arrested, locked up, insulted or threatened for discharging their duties. The sword might bring down a number of journalists but it can never be mightier than the pen in their hands. Truth can’t be buried, it can’t be diluted.
We need societies where total press freedom won’t be a thing of fantasy but a reality. My name is Violet Boniface and I support total press freedom.