Reconciling ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ and the Government’s Wish to Control the Media


5I believe most of you have heard about this ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ issue. It’s actually a declaration that the journalists want the governments (Presidents) to sign.

The ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ calls on African states to;

…Recognise the indivisibility of press freedom and their responsibility to respect their commitments to African and international protocols upholding the freedom, independence and safety of the press, and to further that aim by, as a matter of urgency, abolishing ‘insult’ and criminal defamation laws which in the five months of this year have caused the harassment, arrest and/or imprisonment of 229 editors, reporters, broadcasters and online journalists in 27 African countries.

It is very unfair to just brush away this appeal from our journalists. Indeed, it is worth noting that within some African governments, not only a number of innocent journalists have been harassed, arrested or imprisoned but also, at times, met their ‘mysterious’ demise. And thus, we can’t afford to just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is OK.

Talking about the government’s deception, the common folks have the right to know that some ‘journalists’ have for a long time, willingly, been used by the ruling parties or governments.

Malawians know what I am talking about. Do you remember ‘Makiyolobasi’? Yes…It was basically engineered by a bunch of ‘journalists’ who took upon themselves a task to demonize the opposition of that time.

Some may wonder, did many of Malawians find the program insulting or did the government arrest those journalists (if it was insulting)? Anyway… to you, I leave the task of figuring out the answers.

The truth of the matter is, as long as a journalist or reporter remains kowtowing to the government’s side (by insulting the oppositions and covering up the government’s failures), then it does not matter how vulgar or insulting the reporter may be, even if the demonic horns are to be seen, he or she remains immune.As if that is not evil enough, the government expects us to just ‘zip up’ our mouths when the reporters who expose the government’s failures and deceptions are treated horribly!

From the other point of view, I have this bad feeling that the ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ is literary asking too much from the government(s), as, for example, it further calls on;

…African governments as a matter of urgency to review and abolish ALL other laws that restrict press freedom…

To most of us, the above mentioned statement may sound sugary. However, what this means, is that those who insult the President should not be prosecuted. It gives freedom to anybody to insult the President without being prosecuted.

The real pain is that, as much as I would like the journalists to have ‘freedom’ in any country, I don’t think they possess any iota of right to insult, revile or malign any innocent human being below the sky in the name of ‘freedom of expression’ be it the president or anyone else.

The fact that most journalists (reporters) rarely condemn the abuses done by other ‘media’ men towards innocent people does not necessarily mean that they are no cruel journalists.

In fact, I strongly believe that some court actions should be taken against those irresponsible and careless journalists when necessary.For indeed, it takes a ‘genius’ not to figure out how much damage some of these so-called journalists have caused on Earth.

My appeal to both the government (especially in Malawi) and ‘Media’ men, is that, they should jointly come up with an independent ‘declaration’ (if that is possible) that should contain the protection for innocent citizens from harm caused by irresponsible and reckless journalists and protection or immunity for journalists against groundless arrests, torture or harassments caused by the government.