It all began with the Windhoek declaration 26 years ago, where African journalists petitioned for the freedom of media and information. Decades ago, journalists were constantly victims of assaults, abuse, murder, and in many instances even jail time. But it is ironical and sad that a fight that began more than two decades ago is still being fought for in the 21st century.
Hundreds of journalists have been killed, some incarcerated, and others have been threatened. Fear is left to hang over the lives of journalists on a daily basis. The quest for truth and true information places them on a roller coaster ride of life and death. This should not be so!
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day- “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” speaks to the value of the press in achieving a truly just society. A society where information is consistently made available to the public, to ensure better policy making and positive changes. But to achieve this, we need to understand that journalism is not a crime and does not require restraints. It is appalling that the Freedom of Information is still an issue in many countries, and laws related to press freedom is still being debated in many nations across the world.
Historically, the existence of Press Freedom Day began from a UNESCO conference in 1991 and finally culminated in the adoption of May 3rd as World press Freedom Day in 1993 by the UN General Assembly. However, the value of the day will largely depend on whether the press has in reality truly achieved measurable and observable freedom to do what it should do in informing its populace about pertinent issues.
Our world at 'C4C' also revolves around this important freedom of the press. As part of the electronic world of publishing, we are an integral part of the press. True press freedom is thus critical to our vision and mission to publish what truly empowers young people, and in so doing create a positive change in their lives and their societies.
In the words of the UN Secretary, Antonio Guterres, “We need everybody to stand for our right to truth; we need leaders to defend free media. We must stop the crackdown against journalists”. The presence of a free press defines the existence of peace and justice in any society, noting that critical minds are crucial during critical times.
I believe that in this generation, the youths stand as the largest population of critical decisive thinkers of this age. Therefore, if every young person refuses to be ignorant and presses for the freedom of media and information, a world of peaceful, just and inclusive societies can be achieved.