Opinion: Amid the rise in Citizen Journalism, the ‘Fourth Estate’ must step up

Friday, February 22, 2019

As we sail deep into 2019, I wish to praise journalists around the world for the crucial role they continue to play towards the advancement of societies by keeping governments accountable and promoting the rule of law, peace and justice.

Journalists around the world continue to endure great hardship to tell the story. From Washington where the occupant of the Oval Office basks in antagonising the press to Cairo where the general in the Heliopolis Palace revels in locking up journalists, telling the truth is becoming unfashionable.

Around the world, journalists continue to be targets for murder and imprisonment. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), more than 94 Journalists were killed in 2018 alone. Unfortunately, the numbers keep on rising. The killing of Ghanaian investigative journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela, for example, was a reminder of how dangerous it is to expose corruption in Africa. The impunity must stop!

In The Gambia, though, the media space has significantly widened and this has been reflected in the World Press Freedom Index 2018. From 143 (46.70) in the 2017 to 122 (38.36) in 2018. This is largely due to the loosened political grip on the media and the current government’s manifested commitment to freedom of the press.

Notwithstanding, I still call on the state to hasten the process of repealing the draconian media laws - some of which date back to the colonial era - that were designed to stifle freedom of expression.

While we advocate for a more conducive environment for journalists, it is imperative that we also emphasize the need for responsible journalism. Journalists must stand up to defend truth and disassociate from anything that causes social and political discord. Journalists must be agents of social cohesion and not instigators of anarchy.

The growing trend of biased, unbalanced and sometimes inaccurate reporting is threatening the integrity of media. And a delusional perception of absolute freedom for the press is worrisome.

When we flip through the pages of history, we will see the catastrophic role of the Radio Télévision des Milles Collines (RTLM) in the Rwandan genocide. They used the incredible power of the radio to reach a mass audience within few minutes to incite and direct massacres.

Therefore, if the media is the fourth estate, as is widely believed, it must live by the principles of a fair and responsible journalism. To justify the role of being watchdogs, Journalists must be seen to be public-spirited individuals who are in a constant quest to serve the interest of the public.

Musa Baldeh

Final Year Journalism Student, UTG