(Listen to this article on the Sky Alpha Breakfast Show)
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. The freedom of expression allows us to say, write, and post online whatever we want to say. This is only limited by laws which balance everyone’s interests. These laws include restrictions on hate speech such as racism and sexism. Journalists have the right to freedom of expression too. They should be able to publish whatever they want to. It is in the best interests of everyone to have an independent media.
WHAT IS THE INDEPENDENT MEDIA?
The term ‘independent media’ refers to any form of media that is free from the influence of governments or private companies. The media includes forms such as radio, television, newspapers or the Internet.
HOW IS WHAT THE MEDIA PUBLISH RESTRICTED?
In Tanzania, the authorities have restricted the media by passing new laws. These laws repress independent reporting. They restrict the work of media, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and political opposition groups. This means that the journalists do not have the right to freedom of expression, and that the media is not independent.
The media is controlled by arresting and imprisoning journalists who criticise the government. This is happening in Cameroon, as well as in other countries. This treatment frightens other journalists into silence for fear of being arrested.
WHY IS HAVING AN INDEPENDENT MEDIA IMPORTANT?
Most importantly, having an independent media means that the right to freedom of expression is not being violated. Journalists have the right to freedom of expression. When the media is not independent, this right is violated. Journalists should have the capacity to say anything.
The independent media is important for everyone. In an independent media, journalists are free to criticise the government or the monarchy. This enables the public to be well informed, and able to vote with confidence during elections. An independent media gives the public access to information about their leaders. This allows them to form their own opinions. Without an independent media, reports of the government are often only positive. The public only see one side of the story. This is a form of thought control.
An example of this is the political situation in Burundi. The government has been trying to cut off the supply of information in order to operate without scrutiny or transparency. There is limited information about the government accessible to the public. This means that the government are not publicly accountable. Being accountable means that the government will have to explain or justify decisions. Honest reporting on the government better prepares the public to vote in elections.
The right to freedom of expression is an important human right that should be protected. The exercise of this human right by journalists benefits everyone. Information belongs to everybody; the independent media enables the delivery of this information.