Salone News

World Press Freedom Day

By  | 7 May 2010 at 01:34 | 703 views

Commentary

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day, set aside by the United Nations (UN).

It is interesting how trends change with time. What is in a name? My response is: ”it depends….”. Take the word ‘press,’ it was letterpress that was the vehicle to transmit news in print media. Now here is another one, ‘media.’ In Kissi, Kono and some Ghanaian culture, a name can tell the order of one’s birth among siblings. The word ‘Bastard’ or Basta Pikin’ lost its derogatory appeal during the Siaka Stevens regime in Sierra Leone. Illegitimate? In Canada, one only needs to live with a spouse for a couple years and it is enough to be considered a marriage; at least to the Taxation bureau. It is tagged ‘common law.’

Names for example can easily tell one’s age or generation, and add a bit of history too. So my mother hardly ever says ‘Lebanese’, She would say ‘Syrian’. There is context to contend with too. “I’ve got to go,’ in Canadian parlance could readily be interpreted that one needs to answer the call of nature and rush to the bathroom. Yes, it is ‘bathroom’ and not ‘toilet’, in Canada. People of my mother’s generation did not say ‘newspaper.’ It was ‘Daily Mail’. A motorcycle/motor bike was a ‘Honda.’ Remember the nursery rhyme: ‘One Two Buckle my shoe?’ Well my teenagers of today would hardly understand the term ‘buckle.’ They strap their footwear.It is like how cell phones have eroded the need for wrist watches, except as ‘bling bling’ ornaments.

This week we observe World Press Freedom Day, worldwide. May 3 has been set-aside for the global public to reflect on the power and challenges of the media and the perils of the trade as evident in the imprisonment, killing and other overt or covert censorship of journalists and other media practitioners.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in 1993 to promote access to information and the empowerment of people. It was conceived in the spirit of Article 19 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights of 1948.

To quote: “Ensuring freedom for the media around the world is a priority…. Independent, free and pluralistic media are central to good governance in democracies that young or old.” It contends, “Free media can ensure transparency, accountability in public and private discourse, and contribute to the fight against poverty. An independent media sector draws its power from the community it serves and, in return, empowers that community to be a full partner in the democratic process.” In summary, “Freedom of information and freedom of expression are the founding principles for open and informal debate.”

New technology will continue to evolve and allow citizens to further shape their media environments, as well as access a plurality of sources. The combination of access to information and citizen participation in media can only contribute to an increased sense of ownership and empowerment. Mind you, these are not my words; even as I support the spirit and letter of the text and context.

It is just my way of showing my appreciation of the privilege afforded me by formal education, and literacy/numeracy, for that matter. There may not be much to celebrate in Sierra Leone, as far as literacy goes, but this is a tribute to all those who have made and continue to make education a priority.

Let the trend continue.

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