Expert in Journalism and Media Law-Dr Jane Kirtley has said that “a free press is essential to the democratic society.”
She made this disclosure during a United States Embassy symposium, at the St Anthony’s parish auditorium over the weekend.
Dr Kirtley who is on a visit to Sierra Leone with the goal of providing a new perspective on media related issues explained that “what constitute a free press is certainly a subject of debate and discussion.”
My own interpretation of the term free press, she said, “is a press that is free from government control and regulation; [one] that is free from undue financial influence from the private sector; that believes that providing its readers, and it viewers, and it listeners with the information that they need to participate in democracy is its central mission and calling, because I do think of journalism that it is a calling; it is a vocation as much as it is a profession…” she said.
Secondly, Dr Kirtley said, “a free press is a courageous press and I know that many of you have to show great courage in the years of conflict here in Sierra Leone as you have pursued your stories; being courageous means that you and your media house will pursue the stories that are important to listeners, viewers and readers; you will challenge assumptions, question authority and seek the truth no matter where the truth will lead you, whether to the highest corridors of power or whether it is to the owners of your news organisation, or even if it leads to death,” she said.
Finally, she noted, “a free press is a responsible press.”
What constitutes responsible journalism, she explained, “is clearly something that can change from time to time from society to society.”
“An independent journalist is one who act free of its obligations to anything other than the public’s right to know. A journalist should be accountable they should explain their editorial decisions they should be prepared to interact with their readers, viewers or listeners, and listen to their point of view as well and to correct mistakes,” said Dr Kirtley.
The Director and Head of Department Mass Communication (Mass Com) Mrs Bernadette Cole explained about investigative journalism and the tools needed for investigative journalism.
She highlighted a ten step strategy in carrying out investigative journalism and noted that observation, interviews and documents are very important when undertaking investigative journalism.
Journalists for human rights, Gbanabome Hallowell in his presentation noted among other things that the neutrality of journalist’ is paramount for their integrity.