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Restore the Power of “Truthtelling”
By admin November 13, 2018

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While Khashoggi’s death is still a myth to the general public, there is little doubt that the safety of journalists is not getting better in the tide of international development. From 2006 to 2017, UNESCO has recorded 1,010 killings of journalists. A total of 80 journalists and media workers were killed in 2018 as of 9 October. On average, every four days, a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. 90 percent of these cases remain unresolved.

Mistrust of the media is growing in the digital age. According to a separate Gallup poll from earlier this year that tracked American people’s trust in major institutions, newspapers and television news were among the lowest, exceeded only by Congress. Edelman’s report also showed that in the U.K, 33 percent are reading the news less, mostly because they believe news sources are biased. This kind of sentiment rationalizes the attack on media and conveys the underlying message of attacking democracy and freedom of speech.

These challenges have important implications in achieving international development goals. During the 1960s, a group of journalists in Asia began to promote the concept of development journalism, in a bid to reach rural areas with information which was relevant, clear and competent; and to steer journalism towards informed discussion of the economic and social problem central to developing countries’ situations. It takes the stand that the media have a social responsibility to promote development without harming the prerequisite of objectivity.

The characteristics of development journalism bring two major problems. For one thing, it is gradually regarded as a euphemism for government propaganda and journalists who claim to practice development journalism are seen as having been co-opted to promote state programs and policies. Thus, fake news also erodes trust towards government and its legitimacy. For another, its great attention to democracy, politics, and human rights makes reporters become the target of non-democratic government as long as they pose challenges to the incumbents. Without an integrated legal system, the administrative branch could always “clear” the opposite views void of impunity.

Reversing the trend is no easy task, but the solution is evident. In the perspective of journalists, “International development is complex, slow, non-prescriptive and uncertain. A good journalist must not only describe, but delve, debunk and decode”. Rather than highlighting spot news or events, journalists are expected to spend more time and efforts on covering process news. Non-profits and education institutions should realize that this is a time of great change and financial stress across all media organizations, and discovering truth is essentially expensive. More flexible projects and funding opportunities could inspire younger generations to take the lead in development journalism.

Furthermore, international organizations have a great stake in this issue. On one hand, they have the responsibility and capability of bringing more stakeholders to the table to put pressure on local authorities when persecution happens. On the other hand, civil education aiming at improving digital literacy, freedom of speech, the power of journalism in underdeveloped countries is crucial to break the barriers on the way of discovering the truth, because it decides whether people are capable of making judgment, choose to express their opinions in front of the camera, and ultimately, reform the problematic institution governing them in a feasible way.

 

Read More:
Development Journalism: A Catalyst for Positive Change

Role of development journalism in Nigeria’s development

The Importance of Media to Development

The global state of trust in media, in 5 charts

Safety of Journalists Covering Conflict and Sensitive Issues

What we’ve learnt about fake news in Africa

Keeping journalists safe benefits societies

What is development journalism?


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