Brussels – The man who heads Human Rights and Safety of the International Federation of Journalists, based in Brussels, Ernest Sagaga, has said his organization is concerned that governments worldwide are trying to intimidate and influence journalists on how they report.
He said journalists should be able to report independently without fear or favor.
He made the comments when he addressed a group of journalists, including Carlisle Jno Baptiste, representing Dominica News Online (DNO), who are on a one-week study tour in Brussels organized by the European Union.
Sagaga, a former employee of the BBC, where he worked for many years, said it’s time that they (governments) stop such behaviors.
“We have every single day been receiving complaints from all over from journalist who say that government officials are trying to intimidate them and influence them on how they report which is contrary to what our ethics dictates,” he said.
Asked if such complaints were received by Caribbean journalist he said ‘yes”.
“Those kinds of complaints also exist in the Caribbean and we are very much concerned about that. Journalists need to be able to report independently without fair or favour so that we can properly inform our public so that they also can make an independent decision,” he said.
He explained that there are criteria used to determine whether there is good governance in a country and they include “democracy which is translated into regular free and fair elections; rule of law which means the independence of the judiciary and a free press.”
“So when they ((government) supports journalism, they actually reap the rewards. Therefore it’s in their own interest to ensure that journalists do their jobs properly and are not intimidated,” he stated.
He also lashed out at media owners and senior editors who do little to assist staff.
“The employers, meaning the media owners or senior editors, have a duty of care for their staff and need to ensure that their staff has the basic understanding of what they are supposed to do including the kind of training and equipment needed,” he remarked.
They also, he said, must ensure that the social working conditions under which they perform their duties are good.
“We regard this as a very important obligation on employers and we want that to be first,” Sagaga stated.
He called on journalists to organize themselves properly to ensure that they are protected.
Journalists, he said, are “constantly” under attack in the region and around the world, while some are being killed and sued.
His organization, he said, has established a fund which is for journalist and will assist them in times of need.
“We have an International Safety Fund which was created by journalists for journalists to make sure that any journalist who is in need can come to us for assistance,” he stated.