|A journalist facing the wrath of policemen|
As the rest of the world celebrates, one photojournalist in Kenya, Wallace Gichere died at Kenyatta National Hospital-Nairobi after succumbing to injuries he got 17 years ago after falling off a first floor window. The police had tried to arrest him. Gichere remained on a wheelchair for all those years. Several others have undergone the same ordeal. Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and several other African countries have not been left behind in gagging the press.
The democracy we have always fought for so hard is not the model we are witnessing in most countries across the continent where the state rules with total impunity, with no respect for the rule of law and total disregard for the will of the citizenry.
African media’s growing reliance on private advertising and the state is another factor threatening press freedom. The environment of free competition, better content and the chance to contribute to greater democracy is non-existent. Most advertising firms don't post adverts in media oulets they perceive do not hold their social, political and economic agenda. This has forced media houses to throw ethics out of the window in a bid to tap money. News content is increasingly being shaped by advertisers and panelists and this poses as a major threat for press freedom.
The media is one tool that empowers the citizenry and this empowerment is a multi-dimensional social and political process that helps people gain control over their own lives. This can only be achieved through access to accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a plurality of opinions, and communicating broadly. Being a tool that provides information and ignites dialogue between different members of the society, a key element to participatory democracy, the media should therefore not be taken for granted.