Sunday, April 18, 2021

‘Freedom of information provides checks and balances’ – EU ambassador

The European Union ambassador has reiterated the importance of sticking to principles of freedom of information, saying the practice was important in providing checks and balances and promoting transparency both in government, in the private sector and in civil society.

Fearing the government wanted to clamp down on such principles through the introduction of the Media Practitioner’s Bill, hurriedly and forcibly passed through parliament, opposition parties and the private media fraternity opposed the bill, saying that it was clearly designed by the government to control the media and thus hinder the flow of information.

The bill is yet to be implemented.

Speaking at the World Press Freedom Day over the weekend, EU Ambassador Gerard McGovern echoed the same sentiments, insisting that the EU is a firm believer in freedom of information.

“We believe that access to information is critical in providing checks and balances and for promoting transparency both in government, in the private sector and in the civil society,”
McGovern argued, calling on the concerned stakeholders to put into practice good intentions for the project to be fully operational.

“The challenge is for legislators and media practitioners to implement, each in his own area of responsibility, policies and actions that promote human development. We want policies and actions that are inclusive, permitting all strands of society to form opinions on the basis of maximum and balanced information,” he added, insisting that freedom of opinion and expression are fundamental rights of every human being and inherent parts of human dignity.

A cornerstone of democracy, freedom of expression is also crucial for the free of information to which McGovern argues everyone is entitled to.

Celebrated annually by local media houses, including political leaders from across the political divide, World Press Freedom Day allows the stakeholders to recall about freedom of expression, opinion, basic principles enshrined in international law and the vital role played by independent and free press media.

Invited at the courtesy of MISA Botswana, the EU applauded the invaluable work of many journalists and media professionals around the world who stick to these basic ethics and whose dedication and courage contributed to the revealing of truth about unfolding events.

“As the recent events in the EU countries illustrate, thanks to the commitment of journalists and other media professionals, the world learns about the situation on the ground and people’s aspirations for freedom and social justice,” McGovern said, referring to the revolutions taking place in the Arab countries, where public protests have resulted in the toppling of some regimes.

“Access to information is cardinal to the empowerment of societies in order for them to participate in the democratic processes and demand accountability and transparency,” he concluded.

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