Is Journalism a Crime?
By: Venance Majula
Harassment and attacks on journalists have been on the rise in the last two years, following the International Federation of Journalists annual report of 2017.
According to the report, in the last year about 81 journalists have been killed globally and more than 250 journalists jailed.
The report showcases Mexico as a country with high number of journalists killed in the last year, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The IFJ’s data report that, at a regional level, the Asia-Pacific region recorded the highest number of deaths by (26), followed by the Arab world and Middle East (24) then the Americas (17).
Most of the reported killings are associated with political charges and the use of criminal groups to kill journalists. The report claims that most of the killed journalists are those who challenge governments and exposing malpractices done by government officials including corruption, drugs charges and frauds as well as injustices and violation of human rights.
Following the report, many questions have been raised as to what should journalists (media) do? Since, they are watchdogs to the malpractices done in the society including those political lines. What is the democratic transparency stated by the constitutions and different accords defending rights to freedom of the press?
Despite the killings, the media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. An independent media is necessary for keeping a check on the government and its organs. But with the increasing corporatization of media and the race to grab more eyeballs for higher numbers, the world’s governments are just overstepping their boundaries against the freedom of press.
Moreover, a wide range of restrictive laws in countries like Mexico, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq allow authorities to exert pressure on journalists, and the risk of prosecution encourages self-censorship. The media landscape is diverse, but deeply influenced along political lines.
The Article 18 of the Constitution of The United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, in part three of chapter one directly protects the media including publications, broadcasting, journalists, editors and producers The right in the article 18 specifically enshrines the freedom to seek, receive, and or disseminate information regardless of the national boundaries.
The Tanzania’s government is accused of influencing media coverage especially when comes to stories that touch the government directly. The government has been doing this by banning critical media outlets that publish stories that in one way or another criticize the government or just expose weakness proven by the government itself.
Mwanahalisi, a critical newspaper was slapped with a two-year ban in September this year over allegations it incited violence and tarnished President John Magufuli’s image. The same month, the weekly paper Raia Mwema was shuttered for three months after it published an article with the title John Magufuli’s Presidency is doomed just to fail.
Moreover, authorities in June also suspended the publication of Mawio, a private owned weekly newspaper for two-years after it linked the former presidents to allegations of misconducts in mineral sector during their eras.
Amid lack of editorial independence and deprived freedom of the press journalists have been mercilessly missing by reportedly kidnappings and arrests when conducting their professionals. A good example is a recent missing of Mwananchi writer by the name Azory Gwanda (42), was reported kidnapped on 21st of November last year in Kibiti- Pwani.
As reported by Aljazeera, Self-censorship was widespread and impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels, the Belgium-based organization wrote in its annual report.
Many questions continue: Will they work freely? Who is going to plead for their rights? Are their environments safer? Is their profession recognized as a watchdog institution in the modern democracy?
On the other side of the coin, the media practitioners ought to abstain from publishing the personal words that will reflect personal judgment. Regardless of affiliations and wish, a journalist must go straight telling what exactly happened and not judging the situation.
Moreover, the media practitioners have to ensure they consider the arguments of the two parties or sides proportionally. In other words journalists have to ensure that they are able to equally put an emphasis on balancing their words and avoiding impartiality.
Journalists have got their rights as they are voices to voiceless; they make the public heard by their governments. The media creates a link between citizenry and their government; assume if there would be no with media how would things be done as efficiently in this modern world?