World Press Freedom Day: Paying tribute to journalists amid tough times

by Aviwe Mtila 0

As May 3rd marks World Press Freedom Day, it celebrates the principles of press freedom and assesses the state of media freedom across the globe.

This year’s theme is “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right!”

Journalists around the world face violent assaults and abuse including jail time, murders and beheadings. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported the death of 72 journalists in 2015 alone.

The International Federation of Journalists has already reported 26 journalist deaths this year. Numerous reports allege that Somalian journalists are under attack with both the government and Islamist armed group, Al-Shabab, being said to be using abusive tactics to sway media coverage.

The day pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The date, May 3, was adopted by the United Nations in 1993 and, with African roots; it commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek. The Declaration of Windhoek is a statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991.

To celebrate World Press Freedom, Rwanda is reported to be hosting a one day regional dialogue titled ‘Turning the Page on Hate Media in Africa’ on May 6, 2016 at the Serena Hotel, Kigali.

Zimbabwean journalist, Trust Matsilele, who says that just last week, journalists in the country were ordered to get police clearance if they were to gather and discuss politics, paints a bleak future for free and fair journalism in Zimbabwe.

“There’s freedom of the press within the acceptable limits of the state, but obviously even with the advent of ICT’s, the government still feels it needs to police what private citizens do outside the domain of the state,” says Matsilele.

With situations varying from one country to another, generally it would seem that World Press Freedom Day comes at tough times for journalists.