Media vital in promoting democracy

Editorial

TODAY is World Press Freedom Day.
This day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom and the essential role the press plays in promoting democracy throughout the world.
It is also a time to defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Many mouth the words “freedom of the media” in the same was as they murmur “law and order” or “full force of the law”.
And these phrases by now are worn to the bone of being overused.
What is the much hyped “freedom of the media”?
It is not freedom to twist, to insult reputations, to continue idle gossip or to write inaccurately.
It has nothing to do with bias or the buying of media support through favours.
The power that comes with freedom gives no right to destroy leaders without justification,
nor to create false and glowing reputations for those who deserve none.
Those are the hallmarks of the very corruption and dishonesty that a genuinely free media seeks to pursue and destroy.
There is nothing simple about being a member of the PNG media.
It places those who seek to practice the word game with honour in constant doubt.
Journalists with a love for their country and their people question their own writing, day in and day out.
Is it objective and accurate?
How can they manufacture a few more precious minutes to double check their facts before the deadline is upon them.
Are they losing their investigative edge and becoming just another enveloped by the self-censorship?
Where does loyalty to one’s nation begin and end and should it over-ride the responsibility to seek and broadcast or publish or televise the truth?
PNG governments have chased an often rocky relationship with the media.
Our leaders are notorious for worshipping the media when it speaks well for them – but doing their level best to remove media freedoms when it criticises their actions.
Perhaps they need to consider the degree of responsibility routinely displayed by the PNG media.
Today is an opportunity to:
l Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
l assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
l defend the media from attacks on their independence; and,
l Pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
That is something worth celebrating – and if need be, fighting for. PNG is ranked 38 among 180 countries on World Press Freedom Index in 2019.
The index, published every year by Reporters without Borders, assesses the level of freedom available to journalists.
As a critical component of the right to freedom of expression and access to information, media freedom plays a key role in good governance, transparency, and accountability.
On World Press Freedom Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres calls on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help to build a better world for all.
No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information.
As long as PNG remains a democracy, our leaders exist to serve us, the people – and the media exists to keep the public accurately and responsibly informed.

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