Independent Media and a Vibrant Civil Society Strengthen Democracy

Cape Times (South Africa), May 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

Independent Media and a Vibrant Civil Society Strengthen Democracy


BYLINE: Thabani Khumalo

WORLD Press Freedom Day, founded in 1993 by the UN General Assembly, is annually observed to remind us that freedoms of the press and expression, and access to information, are fundamental human rights. It is also to assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; to recognise and celebrate the sacrifices that journalists make to keep their societies informed; and to remind governments of their duty to protect and promote media freedom in theory and practice.

Any democratic political culture requires a vibrant civil society sector and an independent media to ensure that citizens are well informed about the policies and performances of state institutions and officials. In turn, a strong media and civil society activism can strengthen democracy, promote diversity and advance development. Media and civic society partnerships have proved a formidable force in the struggles of poor societies.

While the media enjoys enormous information and public opinion power, civil society possesses intellectual, cultural and inspirational power. When the two powers are active, they unveil issues connected to values, principles, truth, ethics, morality, honesty, responsibility and ubuntu.

Their strength has ensured that most governments move away from repressive to democratic states, wars to peace, secretive to open societies and from economic underdevelopment to economic development. The Media and civil society contribute to defining democratic principles, good governance and the development agenda on which governments should act.

They seek to peacefully promote civic engagement, tolerance, unity, diversity, respect for human rights and greater governmental inclusiveness, accountability and transparency.

With today's high levels of corruption and other transgressions within state and business sectors, poor people have not only become more aware of their plight but have mobilised to fight against such injustices. Civil society mobilisation and media coverage have brought poverty issues to light, ensuring that public resources are spent on priority areas.

Politicians are not always aware of what citizens really think and want, especially when people are rural and poor. Civil society organisations know the challenges, concerns and aspirations of ordinary people. But they need to get public opinion out to politicians - and it is the media who can do the job. …

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