Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 18 June 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 18, 2010

Editorial Click here to read L’express Weekly

Media Commission or Freedom of Information Act

The tug of war between “La Sentinelle” and the political leaders holding the levers of state power has come to an end. Or has it? Well, the out-of-court settlement has been agreed. But it has left us with a terribly bitter after taste and a few legitimate questions: did we really need a court judgement, a judge, a string of lawyers and the Attorney General to tell us that journalists should be allowed into government offices for press conferences held by government ministers in a country which misses no opportunity to boast about the freedom of the press and access to information? Did we need a court judgement to tell us that a minister should not mistake a government office for his own personal property? That a minister, no matter how powerful he may think he is, is paid from taxpayers’ money and is accountable to tax payers for all his actions?

I derive little joy from this denouement for, while we showed a great deal of good will by listening to all the criticism and grievances levelled at us. While we tacitly and with a great deal of humility accepted that we may not always have been right. While as I said at the last press conference (in an intervention from which the MBC cut and chose what to broadcast), though we try our level best to present objective information by seeking it from various sources, at the end of the day, some of our politicians continue to treat information as if it were something one has to deserve, leaving us with no option but to publish the information we get from the sources willing to give it. It is a simple sort of logic. If one side feels so aggrieved, why don’t they provide the solution?

The out-of-court settlement initially stumbled on whether only the media judged “independent” should be entitled to access information held by those who are paid from taxpayers’ money. The chairman of “La Sentinelle” insisted on having the word “independent” removed from the agreement because it is not our fight only; it is a fight for freedom and democracy. For, we are in an era where excesses are the order of the day and we cannot keep on running to court for judges to rule. Our political system is clogged up as it is and our judges have far better things to do than waste time ruling on the whims and fancies of those whose first contribution to the country has been to drag the government to court or to remind journalists of how vindictive they can be. We should welcome the agreement and its contents as a safeguard against any possible excesses. It is in the interest of everyone, under all governments. It is a great contribution to democracy and freedom.

This tug of war may also have brought to the forefront the good old debate about a “Media Commission”. I genuinely have no problem with this. The only thing is that this is the worst possible time to even start thinking about regulating the press. The wounds are still raw. Maybe the time is more suitable for talking about the Freedom of Information Act!

Touria Prayag

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: