As the world commemorates the 15th anniversary of the International Day of Democracy, the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) reiterates and amplifies this year’s theme focusing on the importance of media freedom to democracy, peace and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.
This is in line with the United Nations General Secretary António Guterres’s message for International Day of Democracy.
An important aspect of true democracy is a free, independent pluralistic media that keeps the public informed on matters of national public interest.
CCF’s Chief Executive Officer Ms. Louchrisha Hussain says it is important that government enacts laws that protect media freedoms as this is an avenue that enables the public to stay informed, make informed decisions and hold government accountable. When media freedom is under threat, the flow of crucial information to citizens becomes suppressed.
Citizens should be provided with information in formats they can understand, in order to engage in democratic processes as well as make informed decisions.
“Public participation and consultation in policy making processes have always been a key message that CCF and other like-minded civil society organisations have emphasized over the years,” Ms. Hussain said.
The lack of public participation and consultation in the recent passing of laws in Fiji is a grave concern, and CCF through its advocacy emphasizes the protection of citizens’ civil and political rights in all democratic processes.
There needs to be more priority placed on advocating for free, independent, and pluralistic media in Fiji, as well as the creation of such environment to encourage media freedoms. Journalists around the world including Fiji, face limitations that affect their capacity to operate freely.
As Fiji anticipates its next National General Elections, it is important for the media to be granted the freedom to carry out its important role of providing the public with credible information on matters of national public interest; they must be allowed to do so freely without duress, fear of prosecution or legal harassment.
The ever growing censorship of the media and the increasing move to silence and prosecute journalists in Fiji, is becoming more apparent; this undermines the very essence of a free-media and true democracy.
According to the UN General Secretary Mr. Guterres, without free press, democracy cannot survive, without freedom of expression, there is no freedom, and such dark paths inevitably lead to instability, injustice and worse, and we agree.CCF CEO Ms. Louchrisha Hussain
CCF emphasizes that government must honour its responsibility to keep citizens informed about democratic mechanisms available to them, and one way this can be achieved is through the passing of laws that enable and encourage the media to operate freely.
Ms. Hussain reiterates Mr. Guterres message for us to join forces to secure freedom and protect the rights of all people, everywhere.
“True democracy is one founded on people-driven policies; we encourage citizens to stay informed and actively engage in democratic processes. We call on government to improve laws that support the flow of credible and insightful information from the media to citizens so they are able to take up the opportunities available to engage in various levels of democratic processes.”
This will help build a stronger democracy, which will contribute further to ensuring peace, development, and respect for human rights.