WORLD Press Freedom Day, is a day of support and remembrance, not only for those who died in the pursuit of stories but for governments to remember their claims to be committed to press freedom.
In their media release to commemorate the day, the Media Association of TT (MATT) said World Press Freedom Day, 2020, “comes in a decisive moment for journalism and the institution of a free press” as the world grapples with covid19.
“Journalists must ensure they communicate accurate, reliable information to the public. The moment demands no less. The institution of a free press must answer. May 3 acts as a reminder to governments of their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about press freedom and professional ethics. It is a day of support for a free press and a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of stories.”
With the world radically reshaped by the covid19 pandemic, press freedom and independent journalism that provide reliable, life-saving information are central to navigating this new time, MATT said.
The health crisis is now exacerbating long-standing tensions between the media and governments both local and foreign. MATT said single-source information flow, privacy incursions, political polarisation, hostility towards the media and shrinking resources in the wake of covid19, will further impoverish the quality of journalism and called on the Government to expand its source of information.
MATT also praised its international colleagues for producing major investigative stories on issues surrounding covid19.
“In a moment, therefore, when the public’s need for reliable information and accountability is greatest, the institution responsible for answering the call is itself challenged. T&T media have persisted courageously on the frontline while absorbing organised troll attacks, derision, physical assaults and public denigration. Our journalists are handicapped by risks of covid19 infection. Significant challenges for news journalists covering the pandemic derive from the single-source information channel provided by Government. MATT has recommended flows of information from a wide range of ministries and state bodies. We repeat that call today.”
The release added: “Challenges being faced by a free press in TT highlight the responsibility of governments to walk their talk of commitment to the institution of a free press. This moment demonstrates the responsibility of media houses to invest in training, mentoring and all aspects of care for their staff. Journalists themselves must answer the public’s call for better quality reporting and analysis. Intense editorial guidance, access to senior members of the profession and exchanges among journalists are useful strategies.”
In her address to the media, Communication Minister Donna Cox said this year, which will be remembered as the year the world stayed at home, journalists rose to the occasion to provide timely and accurate information.
“Through it all, the world press has provided citizens with up to date reporting and analysis, heart-wrenching stories of death and displacement and stories about heroes and heroines on the frontlines around the world.
“Both traditional and non-traditional media have risen to heights never seen before, truly deserving of the pride of place in which journalism is held. The Ministry of Communications affirms its commitment not only to protecting the constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press but also to do all within its power to protect journalists in the practice of their profession.”
Cox said it is her hope that the media and Government continue to develop a healthy relationship that is mutually respectful and collaborative. She added that the media always played a pivotal role in relaying government information to citizens and it is Government’s hope that this relationship continue and strengthens in the years to come.