JOURNALISM, A PROFFESION UNDER THREATS
By: Bekhekile Khupe
Journalists in many parts of the world continue to be victimised while doing their job. Their societal watchdog role is being dwindled as they are unceasingly threatened, jailed and even killed each and every year.
Statistics show that this year only, 40 journalists have been killed and since 1992 about a 1009 journalists died on the field. Given such scary statistics, their role of informing the society and exposing the truth is left vaccant as many are now discouraged to expose corruption and be the voice of the masses.
Two journalists from France were recently killed in northern Mali. According to the Al Jazeera website, a group linked to Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for killing the two French journalists.
Also, a number of journalists died in Syria while covering the war this year. It has been a big and painful loss to the media industry, posing as a huge effect on upcoming journalists.
During the 2013 Power Reporting Conference last month, David Barstow who presented the closing lecture on ‘Choosing Your Last Investigation’, said that journalism is a calling. It needs people that will stand firm of purpose even in hard times. It is a profession that needs bravery.
All these are scary facts and can only be eased by African countries in unity and the world as a whole. Outcries have emerged from newsrooms in different countries to the responsible authorities on the need to protect journalists.
Committees to protect journalists have emerged over the years but still, a lot seems to have remained unchanged and in some aspects, the situation is getting worse. However, needless to say they are some committees that are pulling their weights.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is one of an agency that was formed to spread a voice of protection to journalists in a number of countries. It is a journalist security blog where writers voice concerns about journalists being killed and press censorship laws as well and they call for governments to raise issues concerning press freedom.
Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, an investigative journalist from the Sunday Times, was one of the guests to address journalists during the Power Reporting Conference at Wits university in Johannesburg.
Wa Africa has received threats before in the field, has been arrested and jailed for no apparent reason. He has been offered bribes to keep quiet and refused. He has been kidnapped before but he is committed to his work.
“I can go into a river with crocodiles as long as l know l will come out with something useful. I am even ready to fall as long as someone will take the pen and continue writing,” he said.
Wa Afrika has eight cameras in his house in Johannesburg to make sure his family is safe even when he is out of the country. It is one of the hard times that journalists find themselves in these days.
It is sad that journalists have to work under such uncomfortable conditions. Their work plays a vital role in the community but it is unfortunate that some people turn a blind eye on this fact and continue silencing them.
Forum for African investigative reporters (FAIR) is a professional association of investigative journalists in Africa. It recognises African journalists who investigate stories, encourages them to get out there despite low pay and other obstacles such as life threatening situations.
As an association, they call for journalists across Africa to join them. It was established to help investigative journalists support each other in these obstacles.
On top of all threats that journalists face in the industry, press censorship also poses as a threat to the media industry. In South Africa, the Secrecy Bill has not been passed; President Jacob Zuma is still reviewing it.
There are high chances it can be passed next year after elections. In other countries like Zimbabwe, Syria and a number of African countries, the media is still striving to work under free laws.
There are number of stories under FAIR that have been censored due to tough press laws from governments. The hell of mining in Katanga, DRC Congo where children as young as fourteen years mine to get money, which some of it is taken by guards, suffer from mining diseases whilst friends of government do good business.
The story was written by Eric Mwamba but it was refused by two media houses in DRC.
Protests and strong opposition of laws that deny the press its freedom, should fire up in media houses all over the world. It is the only way that would bring about change in the society.
“We should not be afraid as journalists, we should report fair without fear or favour. We need to refill tanks to take this journey to another level. Stories help the present and help inform the future,” said Alex Kotlowitz, an American journalist and author, in one of the presentations during the Power Reporting Conference.
Keeping the society informed is top priority and contributes positively to a developing country. If journalists are silenced like this, there is no way a country can prosper. It is the right of the people to be kept informed on what is happening in the world.