By Mohamed Abdi
Journalism challenges power and keeps politicians and other institutions at bay by shining light on their actions in order to protect citizens’ rights to life and liberty, but journalism practitioners endure death and detention while embarked on this perilous road.
Journalism is to gather, organize, and disseminate news and information in an effort to make the general public informed, educated, and entertained. People that work in the field of journalism are journalists, irrespective of their credentials. Some are seasoned, others are novice. They investigate and shed light on events occurring in their respective countries and communities, and offer a voice to the voiceless. In the investigation process, the journalists research, reach out to people for interviews, and refine gathered data.
When citizens are not given balanced information, they cannot make wise decisions, making them lag behind. Conversely, citizens are prudent and productive when they get principled media. People access information based on different mediums and the word ‘media’ is the plural form of ‘medium’. Audiences read newspaper articles, watch news on television, or listen to news on a radio. So the media feed people with varied news and ferry them from one place to another, but the media can distort people’s viewpoints by disseminating inaccurate, imbalanced news. For example, an audience may get regular news from CBC; another audience may receive news from CNN, while another audience may obtain its news from Fox news. These media outlets definitely affect their audiences’ viewpoints and how they see the world.
To empower ordinary citizens and prevent authorities from brandishing their varied powers, the journalists ought to produce and propagate balanced information. In doing so, they must check their facts and free themselves from intrinsic bias so that their messages get palatable and powerful. Fact based news is a sharp knife to despotic regimes and deviant people. They abhor and avoid it. That is why skilled journalists are more lethal than amateurish ones. At times, politicians and those in power avoid the former and prefer the latter ones. Nevertheless, it is imperative for anyone aspiring to perform acts of journalism to get as much journalistic training as possible to effectively work in the field. Many people today may not be journalists, but they commit acts of journalism.
Free expression is an integral part of democracy. Citizens ought to express themselves and feelings so long they do not cross the boundaries of decency and the rule of law. Limiting free expression begets authoritarianism, where citizens are muzzled and mistreated. On the contrary, freedom of expression curbs tyranny, and total control of people’s lives.
How people can express themselves? Simple! Without repercussions, they can talk about their governments; complain about their living conditions, about their education systems, about their health systems, and the like. Thus, people enjoy a freedom of expression when they are able to voice their opinions in relation to these above stated areas without penalties. To convey their messages, citizen often use the mass media (print, radio, television, Internet).
But tyrant regimes and narrow-minded groups blacken their faces and shrivel when they see citizens voicing their opinions. So they goggle on reports written or broadcasted about their governances and dealings. These despot administrations and groups think that any impartial media are threat to their future and very existence. For that reason, they gag reporters, idle their pens, and exterminate them if necessary.
As I am writing this article, there are many countries that are kidnapping and killing journalists, simply because they report on issues they should not lay their hands on. For example, more than 70 journalists from different media outlets had lost their lives in Somalia since 1993; and only few culprits have been held accountable for those awful murders. Unfortunately, killing a journalist in Somalia and enjoying life with impunity is as easy as a piece of cake.
2018 World Press Freedom Index, published by reporters without borders, lists 179 countries. Norway tops the list, meaning it is the best country for freedom of expression; Eritrea is at the bottom of the list. Somalia is number 168; Saudi Arabia is number 169. The way this country murdered and mutilated its prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi is still fresh in mind. It is a melancholy story.
Journalism does not only protect citizens’ rights, but also benefits governments. When their missteps are pointed out, they can rectify them and learn from them, enabling the governments to improve their performances and attract their citizens in return. Hence, the media are both for administrations and their subjects. Each side benefits and prospers when there are principled media.
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