Cover Story

Good journalists are truth tellers

Too often, the security personnel mistake Social Media for Traditional Media. Politicians have often uttered scornful words in public, intimidating and threatening the lives of journalists for being the watchdogs of the society even for contents that are published on social media platforms such as; Facebook, Twitter, What’s App, personal Blogs, LinkedIn and other platforms.

A week ago, the government released George Livio, Radio Miraya Journalist from detention which was applauded but it would have been wiser if he was not detained at all. He should have been tried in court for whatever crime he has committed. Livio was arrested on 22nd August, 2016 and spent almost three years in detention without trial. That’s not just. There is a saying that “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

All these issues are escalated by Social Media content. What we refer to as Citizen Journalism. It’s different from Traditional Media which professional journalists practice. These two types of journalism are different in terms of coverage, story analysis and medium of publication. Citizen journalism refers to the reporting of news events by members of the public using the Internet to spread the information. Citizen journalism can be a simple reporting of facts and news that is largely ignored by large media companies. It is easily spread through personal websites, blogs, microblogs, social media and so on. I believe after reading this definition, you will know that journalists are blamed for nothing. What about traditional media? Traditional Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities. Do you see the difference now? After collecting the news, they analyze and craft the last product before publishing. And this last product, called “News Article or News Story” is then passed through a series of editors to ensure it’s in “Public Interest” not individual interest. As a matter of fact, Citizen Journalism is not only a problem to the security situation of the nation – through the degree of hate-speech published on it – but also a Catastrophe to journalists because, time-in, time-out, the Media has been blamed for damaging content published on social media. Social Media even makes our work as professional journalists difficult because of the way the stories are broken on Internet. The wire is too fast, too open, and uncontrollable. Almost, uncontrollable!

Journalism can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices. These elements not only separate journalism from other forms of communication, they are what make it indispensable to democratic societies like ours, that is; if South Sudan is democratic at all. History reveals that the more democratic a society, the more news and information it tends to have. We have had terrible moments where the security organs retrieve or remove news articles from newspapers, radio stations being closed and journalists intimidated and harassed. This has become “unbecoming”. We need to observe the rule of law and uphold the principles of democracy and human rights. The Media is the Fourth Estate of the government. Thus, government and journalists want almost the same thing – which is the wellbeing of the people.

According to research published by Carnegie Mellon University, the world, and especially the online world, is awash in communication. The vast majority of this communication, however, is not news and especially not journalism. Almost 70 percent of email traffic is spam, according to web security company Symantec. In 2012, there was an average of 175 million tweets each day. But almost 99 percent consisted of “pointless babble,” the researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found out.

While journalism occupies a much smaller space than the talk, entertainment, opinion, assertion, advertising and propaganda that dominate the media universe, it is nevertheless perceived as being more valuable than most of the “stuff out there.”

That value flows from its purpose, to provide people with verified information they can use to make better decisions, and its practices, the most important of which is a systematic process – a discipline of verification – that journalists use to find not just the facts, but also the “truth about the facts.”

By David Mono Danga

The author can be reached via: dmonodanga@gmail.com or Twitter @Monodanga.

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