World Press Freedom a far cry from equality

Date: May 10, 2017
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By Tarisai Nyamweda,

Media stakeholders including government officials, civil society, journalists and editors met on 3 May in Johannesburg, South Africa to celebrate and engage on World Press Freedom under the theme “critical minds for critical times”.

The celebrations coordinated by Gender Links (GL), Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, Freedom of Expression Institute, Media Development and Diversity Agency, South African National Editors Forum discussed the current state of the media in South Africa.

Speaking at the event GL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Colleen Lowe Morna lamented that “Gender based censorship is so normalised in the media. With only 20% women sources in Southern Africa it will take a very long time to reach gender parity.”

Lowe Morna also noted that journalists need to find a gender perspective in every news topic. “There is a gender bias in topics and this is very disappointing.”

Twenty years since the passing of the Windhoek Declaration (1991) promoting an independent and pluralistic press, the media is still struggling to achieve this goal.

Press freedom conversations often focus on freedom of the press from government interference or the absence of laws that hinder the press from carrying out its duties and not so much on citizens’ freedom to communicate and express themselves in the media.

Gender equality and equality of all voices is implicit in the notion of a pluralistic press which is meant to reflect the widest possible range of opinions.

 South Africa celebrates a diverse media environment with plural players. However, as Jayshree Pather a media specialist and consultant noted at the event “diversity in the media should not only be measured in terms of ownership but also voices”.

While Musa Sishange board member of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) noted that the most diversity can be seen in the community media sector, Donald Liphoko,  Acting Director General of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), noted with concern that “unless government funds community media in an active way the sector will not grow.”

World Press Freedom Day comes at a time when there is increased interference with the activities of the media from commercial and government interest. The safety of journalists has become a cause of concern with several attacks on journalists recorded. Read more

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