Journalism is not about freedom of expression – White
The Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Aidan White, has stated that journalism is not about freedom of expression, but rather about constrained expression.
He said a good journalist must note that journalism is actually a distinct form of expression, reminding journalists that they are not in the business of freedom of expression.
“Journalism is not about freedom of expression; journalism is about restrained, constrained expression,” because journalists must tell the truth, be independent and make themselves accountable, Mr. White encapsulated.
He made the statements Saturday when he addressed the 15th Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards and 61st anniversary in Accra, at which he was chairman.
The theme for the Awards ceremony which saw 31 journalists being awarded with 33 awards and five personalities receiving honorary awards, was “Unethical Journalism and Corruption in The Media: A Danger to Democracy.”
Stressing that it is important to honour good journalism, he explained that “freedom of expression is the capacity of anyone who owns a computer, who owns a telephone, who owns any form through which they can disseminate their opinion, what they want, when they want it and how they want it.”
Emphasising that journalism goes beyond that, Aidan White said that is what makes it different from bloggers and from others who are these days used as an excuse to attack the fabric of journalism.
To him, citizen journalism is a nice cliché but in the real world we need informed, professional committed people, professionally guided by standards and not merely one who has the capacity to impress oneself as a personality in the pursuit of selfishness and ego.
He added that it is thus important to create the condition – professional condition and yet social condition, to enhance good journalism.
Mr. White however admitted that “There are ethical challenges facing us in the media and that ethical challenge is felt very strongly here in Africa.”
According to him, in Africa the three great challenges are the struggles for peace, democracy and development, saying that in these three areas, journalism and the independent media play a vital role.
“In the struggle for peace, we need tolerance, and media and journalism must lead the struggle for tolerance,” he said, adding, “In the struggle for democracy, we need pluralism; journalism and media must ensure that all voices – majority and minority are heard, if democracy is to function.”
The IFJ boss continued that “In the struggle for development, media and journalism must scrutinise the exercise of power and expose corruption wherever it exists, because corruption is corrosive, not just to development, but to democracy itself.
He further urged the media to promote transparency by employing high ethical standards.
“For a good journalist, if your media are corrupt, your democracy is fatally flawed,” he said.
IFJ’s Secretary General, nevertheless, lamented that there is too much poverty in journalism, with too many journalists being exploited and badly paid. To address that he said it is absolutely vital that journalists are given decent pay, which statement drew applause across the State Banquet Hall where the Awards ceremony was held.
He warned that “If you do not have journalists who are respected for what they do, and who are rewarded for the good work that they do, then you will never have the democracy that you need to serve the democracy that you wish to keep.”
Aidan White said it was therefore important for all at the GJA, IFJ and African Federation of Journalists (AFJ) to launch a campaign on ethical journalism which was held in Accra, Monday.
He explained that the campaign is about building a new respect in society for good journalism; journalism as a public good. Part of the campaign, he said, is about building new partnerships with civil society, government and for all of those who are genuinely interested in creating societies that are free, confident and strong.
Paying glowing tribute to the 31 journalists who had been nominated for awards, he said the award ceremony was significant, not only for journalists in Ghana, but also for journalists in Africa, since it was celebrating the journalism that both Ghana and Africa needs.
The IFJ is the world body of organisations of journalists and is headquartered in Brussels.
All 31 award journalists received certificates, beautifully crafted plaques and a laptop computer for each category, while the honorary awardees received certificates.
The recipient of this year’s GJA/P.V. Ansah Journalist of the Year Award sponsored by Unilever, , Samuel Agyeman of Metro TV, was also given a professional enhancement package of GH¢ 42,000.00 and a study trip abroad.
By Edmund Smith-Asante