New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies

Friday, May 4th, 2012

The calls for more are many! More transparency, more consultation, more inclusion, more vigilance, more honesty and integrity!

The calls are not new, but many of the voices are. They come through social media, talk shows, letters to the editors, cries for justice in far-flung communities and many other forms.

By now, it should be clear to all that not being transparent in how we operate, as media or as leaders in various sectors, can lead only to our own demise and the further destruction of this blessed land.

For too long we have treated governance matters in this country as if they were the right of a chosen few. For too long we have disregarded our people, informing them on a need-to-know basis.

In some cases, only audits of public entities and special probes by investigative journalists can manage to ferret out information that can only help us to make better choices for ourselves.

But, it is not just about those who lead, followership has its own responsibilities too. It is important that as a people we play a more active role in building a healthy, peaceful and just society. For too long, we have refused to speak about or even confront some of the most serious acts in our country. Our consciences are often jolted whenever media report about atrocities committed

against our children. There are some in our society who are brazen enough to accuse us of being sensational. And this label comes because the media dare to expose the society’s collective failure to protect our children.

But report we must! We will tell what we know, even in bits and pieces until the entire story is told.

But in the age of high technology, information will seep through unlikely cracks, without verification or checks and balances, and those who have not yet embraced the need for transparency do so at their own peril.

As we join the rest of the World in celebrating Press Freedom Day, we make a special appeal to those in local governance.

While it is true that voter turnout at our local government polls remained low, the level of interest in how parish councils are managed remains high.

We saw the reactions to the issue of the swearing in ceremony at the St. James Parish Council, and the absence of opposition councilors from the designated swearing-in ceremony in the KSAC as evidence that our people are watching.

For years, journalists in many parts of this country have complained of the continued exclusion of the media from some critical parish council committee sittings.

The absence of media from these meetings on issues affecting local governance means that the public is also absent.

We call on those councils that are yet to embrace transparency in all aspects of their governance to do so now. It is not a choice, but a right for the public to know what you are doing on their behalf.

The Manchester Parish Council has taken the commendable step of publishing, on its website, information about deliberations in that parish council. We note that Kingston’s new mayor has promised transparency in all aspects of the KSAC’s operations. We eagerly await the honouring of that commitment.

The time has come for an end to secrecy in how the business of the people is treated. As media, we are mindful of our responsibility to protect our fledgling democracy. We are committed to honouring that obligation. Today, as we observe World Press Freedom

Day, we re-commit to be relentless and unwavering in the discharge of our duties. The survival of our democracy requires nothing less.

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