Essay on Media Freedom
Number of words: 595
Over the last decade, media freedom has deteriorated globally, threatening the fundamental right to seek and distribute information through an independent press. This has a continuing negative impact on the state of democracy by limiting the democratic principle of transparency. By making various government operations available to the public for debate and scrutiny, free media helps to ensure transparency. This has not been the case in recent years, with attempts from all levels of government to infringe on this right. Populist leaders have attempted to stifle media freedom in a variety of ways, influencing the media to no longer provide unbiased news and information. Some of these attempts have included: public shaming of honest journalists’ moral standings, proactive support for friendly media outlets, governments taking over media houses, regulatory and financial pressure, all in an attempt to coerce them to comply on the type of information to report. Financial resilience crises in the media sector in South Africa have recently been exacerbated by the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic; threats to the point of harassment against journalists by politicians and even the police; and job losses by journalists have all contributed significantly to recent key media freedom inhibitors.
During the recent Covid 19 pandemic, media freedom was put to the test by the coverage of the Covid vaccine rollout. Despite the government’s efforts to encourage its citizens to take the vaccines, the public has raised a number of concerns about them. As ethical journalists, the media must take a neutral stance in reporting on the roll out in order to provide accurate and unbiased information. There are important guidelines that should be followed by an ethical journalist when reporting on the issue.
All data gathered and reported should come from reputable sources. Any information used should come from well-informed sources who are well-versed in covid 19 and vaccines. For up-to-date information on any developments, this could include material from the World Health Organization or the country’s science media center.
As a journalist, you must be cautious not to blindly trust any data. One should be willing and ready to question stakeholders about any data collected, including raw data and research methods. This will aid in preventing the publication or reporting of doctored information, which would otherwise mislead the public.
Any data reported should be the result of extensive research. Preliminary data may not provide the required complete peer-reviewed report, resulting in misinformation. In the case of comprehensive reports or studies, they should be critically read to ensure comprehension of information and thus improve accuracy of reporting. The information reported should not be based solely on press releases, but rather on a deeper dive into the studies or research.
The benefits of the vaccine should also be clearly communicated in order to provide information to anyone who may have been interested in getting vaccinated. This should be supported by facts and figures on vaccine efficacy throughout history. Any potential side effects should also be specified. The demographics of trial participants should be included in the reporting to help people understand the efficacy of the vaccines across different populations.
Reid, J., Skinner, K. and Daniels, G., 2020. Media freedom in South Africa today: unravelling multifarious threats toward a research and advocacy response. Communicatio: South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research, 46(3), pp.1-19.
Repucci, S., 2019. Freedom and the media: A downward spiral. Freedom House. Available at https://freedomhouse. org/report/freedom-media/freedom-media-2019. Accessed, 12.
Repucci, S., 2019. Media freedom: a downward spiral. Pribavljeno, 20, p.2020.
WHO, 2020. Tips for professional reporting on COVID-19 vaccines.