In a world where the global fabric has shrunk and information is disseminated in a couple of minutes, it’s an understatement to emphasize the importance and freedom of the press. We have social media, citizen journalism et cetera, but conventional media is still a pillar of channelling news and information no matter where you are, talk of it being like that footpath that everyone can’t avoid no matter the divergent routes available in the global village.
In fact, it seems as though it’s becoming more important, with TV and radio conglomerates testing business and sports waters, even establishing themselves in business circles, the media is that unavoidable player in the world’s game. However, we shouldn’t forget the dangers of working in the global village, the main one compromise, so as to fit in the designated positions, and practitioners in the media industry should be able to differentiate the black and white patches when it comes to this.
As we commemorate the World Press Freedom Day, which is held on May 3, we should take time to look at how the industry is being shaped, and how it’s freedom is being eroded, not in the way many people see it-the press being muzzled-but the press being coerced to fit a certain script. We are in an age where the power circles are becoming smaller, the rich are controlling large portions of wealth and many more want to break through the barrier and even control the masses because he who has the minds has the power, and media is now the weapon to accomplish this.
At the moment, it’s not only about setting up laws and dictatorial regulations that impede us in our task but some powers that be may now opt to resort to ‘smoother tactics’ including dressing journalists in deceptive pledges to win over their allegiance. That is more dangerous than using force to drain out truths or stuffing the scribes with stone age rules. In the political arena in Kenya, and even globally, journalists have to deal with the smooth advances of politicians to tailor stories and information according to their taste, or to shape certain perceptions to fit what the politicians want over a period of time. When it comes to this no one should underestimate the power of the press, leaving out social media.
It’s hard to tell someone “Don’t do this or else I’ll take away your equipment and lock you up!” so one says, “Just do this, paint my picture like this, write this and that about me, and check your account later.” It’s the same in other areas, like business, sports and even entertainment. The human mind is used to freedom as letting loose from oppression or breaking away from suffering, but it’s also being free to think and articulate the truth without any interference. As headlines around the world focus on journalists and how many have been jailed, beaten and mistreated, it’s time we focus on how many have been compromised, influenced and stripped of their ethics.