Journalism Rights Should Matter Like Other Human Rights

Social Justice Policy Brief #154 | By: Diing Magot | January 30, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.cl.usembassy.gov

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The author is a new US RENEW NEWS Reporter who comes from South Sudan (South Sudanese) , has spent time covering stories in South Sudan and Kenya, and now resides in the US. This Brief in part is a reflection of her time spent in covering news in all 3 countries.

Summary

Journalism is currently under threat, in today’s world people are still confused about the role of a journalist in a democratic society. Professional journalists at present face threats while doing their job of uncovering the truth. Access to information is a challenge and journalists continuously work in an environment that can lead to being harassed threatened, jailed or even killed. According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), last year more than 300 journalists around the world have been imprisoned because of their work.

CPJ also reports that in 66 cases, those held have not yet been told of the charges they are facing. They often face gratuitously cruel conditions, due process is frequently subverted as authorities prolong pre-charge and pre-trial detention of journalists, and journalists’ lawyers themselves face retaliation around the world.

Analysis

A journalist is someone whose career includes research that leads to investigating, searching for contacts, interviewing sources and producing all the facts, and then reporting it as news through a medium such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the internet.

In Kenya, Article 33 protects and entrenches the Freedom of Expression in all its manifestations, including the freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas, including artistic creativity, academic and scientific research, but with limited exceptions to propaganda for war, incitement to violence; hate speech or advocacy of hatred.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a part of the change in society. I started my journalism career as a print news intern at Kenya News Agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Working in the media is interesting because you get to work with experienced journalists, writers, and editors.

I also interned at Royal Media Services , Citizen Television. This organization was  a bigger media house. It had a television station, digital media and a radio station that has local dialects from Kenya. When I was an intern at Citizen TV ,  I was star struck when I met the news anchors that were on television. I loved working in the media it made me learn something new every day about people. As a journalist you need to have tough skin when you are in the media otherwise you will not survive. Everyone is very ruthless and wants to be on top. When you write a lot of negative news such as rape, murder, lynching, corruption, protests, it can make you lose trust in people.

But when you see your byline it is very satisfying to see your story published. When I was in South Sudan the media field was different. Article 24 of the Interim Constitution of South Sudan 2011 talks of freedom of expression but with a limit. I was a member of a journalists group there,  and we were usually amongst the first people to know when a story broke. However,  sometimes the editor needed to decide whether the story was newsworthy before it was published. If the story incited violence or hate speech, or had the possibility of bringing defamation charges,  it was killed.

You are always learning something new because everybody has a different life experience and stories. You will do a lot of research to have an idea of what you are about to write. If you are the editor, you are the agenda setter , you get to decide which stories will make the headlines and get people talking. As a  journalist, you will network with many people especially during press briefings. You meet journalists from other organizations and when you write someone’s story you are always making new connections.

In America, I have noticed journalism is different, very fast, and there are many organizations that sell news. It is more commercial and each state has their own news so it is easy to not know what is going on in other states if I do not follow up on the re-cap of nationwide news. The news is technologically advanced and AI is being introduced to news. There sometimes is a mistrust in news when it comes to disinformation especially now that elections are coming up.

Engagement Resources
  • National Press Club – There are many organizations that has supported me as a journalist support journalists such as the National Press Club, which is the meeting place in Washington DC for newsmakers and journalists. It serves its members through professional development activities that strengthens their skills.
  • Committee to Protect Journalists – The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. The defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal and provides financial and psychological support as well.
  • IJNET – International journalists network delivers the latest on global media innovation, news apps and tools, training opportunities and expert advice for professional and emerging journalists worldwide.

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