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EDITORIAL: Why we must protect our free Press


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Why we must protect our free Press

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THE NEWS MEDIA is at a critical junction. Why? The convergence of many events has reshaped the way the media operates, shifting all of the norms of yesteryear.

There is the fake news spectacle, promoted by special interest groups with no goodwill for the Fourth Estate. This is why we must avoid being manipulated by those who set out to do so almost daily.

They will seek comfort and be emboldened given the support they see coming from those in high office who are persistently denigrating the media.

Then there is a demand for more investigative journalism in Barbados, but no freedom of information legislation. This means that whistle-blowers can be prosecuted and persecuted.

In the efforts to scare away timid journalists, there is always the threat of court actionfor defamation even when there is no justifiable case.

The growth of social media and heavy use of Facebook and Instagram with the ability to give instant news, has captured the attention of audiences worldwide. However, this is often without the tenets of responsibility, good taste and fairness, which form the hallmark of responsible media outlets.

There is the targeting of journalists especially when taking a critical stand on issues and against those holding power. The threats can come in many different ways, from withholding of advertising to harassment of reporters and photographers.

The environment in which the Press – print, broadcast and online – operates is one which has seen a loss in trust as well as audiences, with business models in turmoil.

Despite all the hurdles, having an unfettered Press is a necessity for the protection and entrenchment of democracy. Like the judiciary, the legislature and the executive, the role of an independent, fearless but fair news media contributes to upholding those lofty principles to which we all aspire.

This is why nations which cherish freedom need quality journalism to highlight thecritical issues for a more discerning audience.It may be the Auditor General’s report, exposing to public scrutiny the pros andcons of public/private partnerships, or reporting on the performance of state-controlled corporations.

The Press cannot waiver in its duty to hold elected officials to account and be a watchdog against greed and abuse by a privileged minority.

We must not censor ourselves out of fearof offending some high official, buckle tothreats of lawsuits, or allow not having freedom of information legislation to curtail our efforts to highlight matters of concern to the public.In it all we must be fair and accurate in our reporting.

Our role is to report the facts, helpingpeople to understand the information by putting it into context. This is why we support the theme for today’s World Press Freedom Day – Critical Minds For Critical Times: Media’s Role In Advancing Peaceful, Just And Inclusive Societies.

THE NATION has always strived to be a responsible media serving the public. This is still our resolve.

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