Thursday, 4 June 2015

Media fees Hinder press freedom

The role of the media in the state is crucial because democracy and good governance are inextricably bound to a free press.
Thus, by nature of its role, the media often times finds itself on a collision course with the government that ought to protect it.
The Constitution has one of the most progressive Bill of rights that includes Article 29 that guarantees freedom of expression, and this government has been chest-thumping as an upholder of free speech.
There is a new proposal for journalists to pay for a practicing certificate, annual renewal of the certificate, obtaining an enrolment certificate and other fees for entry into the register of journalists.
This is a clear indication that the government is afraid of the media’s successes and is struggling to interfere with journalism itself.
The freedom of expression being a fundamental, natural, inalienable right ought not to be restricted by any measure. Equally, there should be no restriction on who may practice journalism.
In case this proposal is meant to regulate the work of journalists, there are other decent, time tested methods government can use.
Seeking legal redress for stories it finds wanting is the surest and obviously most civil way.
Prohibitive government policies normally do not achieve the goals for which they are intended.
The freedom of information remains the most important pillar of a vibrant democracy because it influences the electoral behaviour of the citizens positively as they make informed choices and contribute earnestly and intelligently in public discourse.
In a young democracy like ours, deliberate impairment of the press using such fees that are entirely unnecessary will obviously reverse the tide of the progress made so far. Certainly, all media houses have their editorial policies and are strict on professionalism. Government should partner with editors because a media house is the chief beneficiary of professional journalism as it greatly impacts its credibility.
The idea of having journalists register with government and additionally renew such a certificate annually at a fee will impair the independence of the fourth arm of government and give way to obnoxious laws that will strangle the press.
The belief that journalism is a threat to governments is weak, feeble unresearched and altogether unfounded.
Because life is meaningless without the ability to effect progress and advance sustainable development, restricting the media, which is supposed to enlighten society on the various challenges it faces, implies restricting human progress.

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