Story By: Anita Delight Danquah & Stephen Nartey
Founder of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Prof. Kwame Karikari, has criticized the political elite as the main obstacle to journalism in Africa.
“Most governments are reluctant in opening up. Apart from a lot of reforms that led to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, no regime has taken comprehensive media reforms,” he observed.
Speaking on the topic “Media Under Fire: What Are The New Challenges To Press Freedom 27 Years After the Windhoek Declaration” at the World Press Freedom Day in Accra, Prof. Karikari said a country like Ghana with sterling credentials in press freedom has not been able to pass the Right To Information bill.
He questioned why laws in the statute books that pose a challenge to the work of journalists still exist.
“A country like Ghana with all these credentials, what’s holding the political class back in passing the right to information bill? A country like Congo, which is no near democracy, has passed it and for me, the main challenge remains the political class,” he emphasized.
On what can be done to improve credibility of journalists, Prof. Karikari said mainstream media needs to be pressured to professional in packaging information they disseminate to their audience.
“At best, training institutions and mainstream media need to conduct basic information on ethical practise,” he said.
He explained that the professional problems in the media are as a result of political ownership.
Stephen Dunbar, President of the Operations of New York Times Company, on his part, said the major danger to press freedom is economic factors.
“The business models are so many news organisations are threatened and compromised and the consequences is that, it’s affecting doing independent journalism, he explained.
Mr. Dunbar said as much as low remuneration is a challenge to journalism, they pay their journalists well.
Ferial Haffajee, South African Editor for Huffington Post, said the internet has become an avenue of liberation for journalists today, but, a risk as well.
“If we don’t start paying our journalists well, that’s the real threat,” she pointed out.
Mostefa Souag Acting Director General, Al Jazeera Media Network, claimed that he sees propaganda being churned out as news as the real issue particularly in Middle East.
“The media is under the thumb of government, police, intelligence agencies, and even the best hands are compromised,” he stressed.
According to him, this creates confusion in the minds of people providing grounds for news audience to question what the truth is.
“Fake news represents news and misinformation in the Middle East. They incite violence against the media,” Mr. Souag added. He called for a distinction between what is the truth and propaganda.
He said the network pay their staff well irrespective of being freelancers well.
He indicated that they place priority on training their journalists in the wake of the threats to safety of media workers.
Gwen Lister Executive Chairperson, Namibia Media Trust, noted that society needs to recognize that journalists’ rights are same as that of citizens.
She said journalists in Namibia, however, work in an atmosphere of freedom without arrest and killings.
She observed that there are so much fake journalists operating everywhere and it’s important to distinguish between those who are passionate and those that cannot be trusted.