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"Poor journalism" is the biggest threat to media freedom

Monday 9 May 2016, by SIGNIS

Nairobi, May, 9th, 2016 (AllAfrica). Last week, on May 3rd, was World Press Freedom Day. Like every year, there were many calls for the rights for journalists to do their work freely and safely. Indeed, censorship is still a big issue in many countries, and journalists are often facing attacks, while doing their job. But for Daniel Kalinaki, a Ugandan journalist based in Nairobi, the biggest threat to media freedom is “poor journalism”.

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Daniel Kalinaki

He says that “the biggest existential threats to media freedom are internal, structural and related. They can broadly be clustered into the journalism model on the one hand, and the business and ownership models on the other hand”.

Kalinaki says that “our journalism model was premised on a world of information asymmetry. The job of journalists was to find information, and bring it to the attention of a grateful public. This contract with citizens was implicit: journalists endeavoured to obtain and public the best obtainable version of the truth at the most convenient time; citizens used that information to make informed decisions and underwrote the business model by buying the newspapers and the advertised products.”

He adds “in today’s world of information overload, the role of good journalism is no less important. If anything, it is desperately required to validate reports of what is happening, and explain to citizens why it matters. It is here that we have been tested and found wanting. Years of underinvestment have left many newsrooms bereft of talent to do explanatory, interpretative and investigative journalism.”

However, the classic business model has been challenged recently. People want to have information for free, on digital platforms. But “citizens can and should support the production of good journalism by investing in it. Many argue, with some merit, that they do not get value from the media they consume but the solution to incomplete information is not complete ignorance. So buy or subscribe to a newspaper”, he continues.

“The media generally reflect the state of society. Informed professional journalists do not fall from the sky; they are the product of media houses in which citizens are invested financially and ideologically. But this trust must be earned and journalists and media owners must make the biggest investment. To survive we must be more diligent, more professional, and deepen our knowledge in order to examine events with rigour and explain them with depth and context,” he concludes.

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