Thu | Dec 9, 2021

Journalism keeps democratic societies alive, sustainable

Published:Tuesday | May 4, 2021 | 12:25 AM

As journalists navigate a changing media landscape in an uncertain climate brought on by the pandemic, there is a call for greater access to information with credible reports proving a key tool in the COVID-19 fight.

As Jamaica joined other countries in celebrating World Press Freedom Day yesterday, under the theme ‘Information as a Public Good’, the Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJL) saluted journalists for staying true to their commitment to the public.

“With the advent of COVID-19, this past year for Jamaican media and press freedom has been more tumultuous than we could ever have imagined. We were challenged to quickly filter and piece together information from numerous sources to learn as much about this virus, how it affects people, how it affects economies and most importantly how to prevent it from wreaking mass destruction on our country,” the MAJL said in a release.

“Our journalists have put themselves on the front lines in pursuit of their calling to inform and educate with the truth. We do our jobs with a great sense of pride knowing that we have played an important role in the fight against COVID-19. We understand and believe that the biggest weapon against COVID has been the dissemination of credible information in what has been a global sea of misinformation and agenda-based propaganda,” it added, declaring its commitment to throw its “full weight behind preserving the necessary freedoms to continue this important work which will see us emerge from this pandemic stronger than before”.

The Media Institute of the Caribbean called for improvements in access to information legislation in the region, arguing that most Caribbean states lack the necessary framework that will guarantee information as a public good.

“During the pandemic period, there has been a marked increase in the number of refusals for information from journalists,” the institute observed.

It said that this year’s theme struck an important chord within the context of public information as a key component of the achievement of developmental goals.

“This year’s UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Conference pointed to themes relevant to our region: media capture and media extinction,” the institute noted in a release. “In addition to these, we face a threat to independent journalism and the disappearance of smaller independent media entities.”

It pointed out that the pandemic has underscored the need for “quality journalism and the significance of a constant and free flow of information as demanded by the public” at a time when, ironically, some media houses are fighting extinction.

The Media Institute of the Caribbean called for “better resourced public information systems, a more conducive culture of governance and the presence of strong, meaningful legislation to better facilitate public access to state-held information”, noting that journalists would remain steadfast in seeking out information in the interest of the public.

“Within the context of media extinction that the global journalism fraternity faces, it is essential to note that this means the demise of truth, which leads ultimately to the decay of democracy and the death of sustainable societies,” the release noted.