Sunday 03rd May 2015
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day being celebrated today, the Association of Media Practitioners Seychelles‘ (AMPS)’ Chairperson Mr Gervais Henrie has released the following message.
Let journalism thrive!’
Each year on World Press Freedom Day, we remind ourselves that ensuring freedom for the media in Seychelles and around the world should be a priority.
This is so because media freedom and access to information feed into the wider development objective of empowering people. The media’s watchdog function is also essential for holding governments, businesses and others to account.
Ensuring freedom for the media locally is even more important because of the tender age of our democracy. It’s been only 21 years since the country returned to multiparty democracy and an independent, free and pluralistic media should be central to good governance in young democracies like ours.
If we remain true to this principle, the media will in the long term ensure transparency, accountability and the rule of law; it will promote participation in public and political discourse; and contribute to the fight against so many scourges our society is facing such as crimes, drugs, alcoholism amongst others.
Yet every day of the year we see several attempts to undermine the media’s work.
Access to information by the media remains a challenge. A large number of government ministries, departments, parastatals and sadly a growing number of private companies are adopting a hostile attitude towards the media or selectively choosing to engage with them.
Journalists are singled out for reporting on uncomfortable truths and are blacklisted by opinion leaders.
Many journalists particularly those working in state funded media houses or those owned by people in the political establishment are still self-censoring because they are fearful of losing their jobs or reputation if they publish certain information – they are fearful of lawsuits or other economic consequences.
Criminal defamation which is still on the country’s statutory book is a gun pointing at the media’s head. Last year at least one newspaper was threatened with this law.
In light of the judgement of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in December 2014 in Konaté vs. Burkina Faso, it is clear that the time has come for Seychelles to consider repealing its criminal defamation laws. The Court ruled that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances. The judgement is binding on all African Union member states, including Seychelles.
Although none have been imprisoned or killed here in the last year, journalists are still being harassed, verbally abused, reported to the Seychelles Media Commission and sued for their works.
This is a major concern because behind each of these cases stands a woman or a man simply going about their lawful business.
As we celebrate this year’s theme ‘Let journalism thrive,’ let us remind ourselves that journalism succeeds when we all come together to defend its independence from attacks and by recognizing that that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights.
Media freedoms must remain at the centre of our effort to achieve greater goal for Seychelles as a small island state and emerging democracy.
For this to happen it is essential that the state guarantees: training possibilities for people in the industry; an equitable legal and financial frameworks for the media to operate within; the existence of a level playing field between state sponsored and privately owned media; the equal treatment and fairness to every media house; legalization of the access of information by the media and general Seychellois population; no pressure should be applied to the private sector because of their relationship with the privately owned media.
In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Association of Media Practitioners (Seychelles), I am also calling on all media practitioners to take their work seriously. Journalism is not just a profession, but a vocation and a calling like the priesthood. It’s how much love and devotion we put into our work that will guarantee it thrives. It’s how willing we are to stand up and defend its causes that will give us the respect we and our vocation deserve. If we fail in this pursuit, social media and mobile technologies will step in and offer our audiences the accelerating access they are yearning to participate as citizens in the country’s political, economic and social development.
On this World Press Freedom Day, I call on all Seychellois and in particular those in decision making positions to promote and protect the importance of a free press for developing and maintaining democracy in our nation, and for its economic development.
Information about the association:
The Association of Media Practitioners Seychelles‘ (AMPS) is an accredited member of CEPS.
Its aim is to regroup any person who collects, writes, presents and disseminate news and commenting on news and other information, on a full time, part time or freelance basis, for any media house registered or recognised by the Seychelles Media Commission.
III. Photographer / Camera Operator