The shame of the boot of the bully - CNBC Africa

The shame of the boot of the bully


by Chris Bishop 0

The lack of free speech stifles thinking, kills debate and enslaves people.

I am sure any journalist worth his or her salt abhors this affront to freedom and human rights.

I have been detained in the line of duty in a number of countries and I know what abuse and indignities are in store for people who have been imprisoned for merely doing their job.

The simple reason why people in power do such to journalists is because they don’t like the message and decide to shoot the messenger. It is the people in power who make the world we live in - for good and for bad - and all we journalists do is hold up a mirror.

With their bloated egos and sense of divine self-importance, the people in power do not often see themselves as the rest of the world sees them. This gap in perception gives rise to the wrath of the authorities.

I thank heaven that I can sit here in Sandton and write these words without anyone looking over my shoulder, nor following me home, nor threatening my wife and family. It is freedom sweet as water from a mountain stream and not to be taken for granted.

My heart goes out to the many courageous African journalists across the continent who work, tirelessly, across the continent to keep the light of truth and openness burning. These journalists are the heroes of the fight for truth. Unknown and often unsung they challenge authority with their words. Liberation governments in Africa often pour scorn on these journalists calling them unpatriotic traitors and sell outs. You only have to look at the pictures of the demeaning cage the Al Jazeera journalists were kept in during the hearing in Cairo – an affront to human dignity in itself.

“Why aren’t the BBC and CNN journalists who covered the story with us in here with us?” shouted the journalists.

It is clear that the authorities are trying to bully journalists from a smaller, younger, station, instead of facing the wrath of the western world by taking on the big boys. Bullies usually take the easy way out. 

The bitter irony is that these feisty journalists are often closer to the spirit of those who liberated Africa than those who try to keep them in fear and in line. The question I have always had for those who threw off oppressors only to take over their days jobs is: have you come so far, for so little?

Freedom to speak is precious. The lack of it stifles thinking, kills debate and enslaves people.

There are scores of committees everywhere from London to New York and Paris promoting the freedom of the press. I am sure they do good work. But I am sure they would do much more if they were shouting and protesting on the streets of Harare and Cairo.