FREEDOM OF THE PRESS : It goes with responsibility.

Freedom of the Press does not come with impunity, nor should it. Here is where the confusion and disagreements begin.

For one, the level of education among the members of what is often referred to as the Fifth Estate in the developed world will determine how the Press exercises its privileges, and government its responsibility to insure law and order

True, if government deems all stories questioning its policies unacceptable, then there is a problem. But if journalists do their homework and avoid unnecessary sensationalism, there is a way to deliver the message without coming into conflict with the powers that be.

Rwanda’s Press is still in its infancy, and it shows. Lack of journalistic skills and poor mastery of the English language seem to be a key problem : NOT government intolerance of negative reporting. At a recent Press Conference a reporter asked the President why fuel costs more in Rwanda than anywhere in E. Africa. But when the President asked for specifics, the reporter did not have any, and it was obvious he had not done his homework.

The definition of news is not when dog bites man, but when man bites dog. In this vain, journalists should be given free reign to execute their trade, but must be held to high standards because what they report  has far reaching consequences.

Freedom of the Press must not be construed as carte blanche to write anything, and everything. In developing countries, cultural dynamics often come into play, and ought to be respected. But, at the same time this must not be used to curtail the rights and privileges of journalists.

At the end of the day, freedom of the Press is the best insurance for a healthy and vibrant democracy. What I have observed in Rwanda is commendable, but journalists still have a long way to go to perfect their skills, thus protecting their trade, and the State from tyranny.

 

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