It’s been some time since I last posted on this blog. There are multiple reasons for this: I had to finish a consultancy report, the kids and us were on holiday for a week, and I guess I had sort of disconnected / plugged out…
I however want to report on a radio show I was invited to on R1 on Thursday 27th July. The show is called ‘Controverses’ and was hosted by Francoise Marechal-Charlotte. The programme was devoted to the local media, more specifically to the Media Trust. The other guests were journalists Henri Marimootoo and Sedley Assone.
Death of the Media Trust?
The starting point for the discussion was the alleged programmed death of the Media Trust, which still has no chairman as the PM has not yet designated one though the media reps had already been elected in January. This has handicapped the Media Trust Board which cannot operate as usual.
This lack of decision by the PM together with the announced proposal of a Media Commission Bill is prompting journalists to say that the govt wants to punish the press and drastically restrict its freedom.
As an external observer, I analysed this as a strategy of govt to frighten the press. As I pointed out in an earlier post, this seems to be working to some extent as some journalists are sometimes unduly overcautious in reporting even official speeches and parliamentary questions.
I don’t know what will be the content of the Media Commission Bill (if there is one) but definitely, we will have to be careful that it does not stifle the press (though some regulating would be desirable, specially to protect the interests of ordinary citizens).
Self-regulation not control
However I truly think that it is high time for the press to show its goodwill (and thereby avoid the ‘necessity’ of imposed control from above) by creating its own association or institution to discuss and establish codes of conduct, provide mechanisms for handling complaints and ensure redress and also incidentally raise funds for training programmes. Self-regulation is always better than imposed laws.
I also pointed out that the Media Trust is currently receiving only some 2 million rupees annually from govt, basically to fund seminars and training of journalists. Surely, if the Media Trust were really to die, that would not be the end of journalism in Mauritius.
The need for common ground
The problem is that journalists of the local press itself have not been able to communicate amongst themselves (ironic, isn’t it?). Though diversity of approaches and beliefs is certainly desirable to provide a large array of choices on the market (and thus ensure multiple voices are heard), some common ground has got to be found to ensure freedom of speech that is also respectful of all.
I heard recently that some journalists have met to discuss the creation of an association. Could it be that my suggestions have been heard? I hope the initiative is a serious and solid one…