Editorial comment – World Press Freedom Day: Liberty and responsibility

Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley speaks at the Fiji Sports Journalist workshop in Suva. Picture: ATU RASEA

DIFFERENT people will have different views about what constitutes good news.

We each differ in our opinions about scenarios and events that happen around us.

There are events that will prick at the heartstrings.

They will tug at our emotional responses in different ways.

It makes us special as individuals.

We each have our preferences, our likes, our dislikes and we value things differently.

Now throw in a group of people who have a calling to disseminate news of events that happen around us.

Today is a very special day for journalists.

Today is World Press Freedom Day.

We hope today will be an opportunity to appreciate the work of journalists and to acknowledge people in the news and those who read, listen to, view, and surf the internet in search of information.

Journalists are sometimes misunderstood in Fiji.

Journalists also have families.

They have feelings, bias, hopes and aspirations and they appreciate many things.

They also have dreams and values.

Journalists have loved ones who look up to them for advice, support and reassurance.

Many have families of their own, children to support, nurture and watch over.

This is not a job for the faint-hearted though.

Faced with many obstacles, passion for the job keeps many in this career.

Some have been ridiculed, snubbed, and publicly humiliated, sometimes by State officials.

Some have left the profession for various reasons.

But there have also been many instances when journalists have been acknowledged and appreciated.

Sometimes this can be thankless work.

There are, however, many instances when there is personal satisfaction because a story contributed positively to the development of a family, a community, village, town, city or the country.

For every journalist on the frontline, there are just as many in the background, from the editors of various departments, subeditors in a newspaper, to the people behind the scenes working to get a radio or television program or web update ready for the masses.

There are the people in administration, finance, transport, advertising and marketing, and newspaper sellers, who all play an important role in the dissemination of information for the masses.

The role of the media is critical to ensure people are in a position to make well-informed decisions.

It is critical in holding power to account.

In his message for today, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a free press was essential for peace, justice sustainable development and human rights.

No democracy, he said, was complete without access to transparent and reliable information.

It is the cornerstone, he said, for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.

“Yet while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.

“Civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate. And with anti-media rhetoric on the rise, so too are violence and harassment against journalists, including women.”

When media workers are targeted, he said, societies as a whole pay a price.

“On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help us to build a better world for all.”

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once said that “Journalism provides a platform for informed discussion across a wide range of development issues”.

Only when journalists are at liberty, he said, to monitor, investigate and criticise policies and actions can good governance exist.

We remember though, with that comes a great sense of responsibility.

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