Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Chan: Free press means democracy




MEDIA freedom comes with great responsibility to be honest and fair in reports and to call attention when democracy is failing, Sir Julius Chan says, The National reports.

Speaking at Media Freedom Day celebrations in Port Moresby yesterday, the New Ireland governor challenged a gathering of media practitioners, partners and University of Papua New Guinea journalism students to use the free press to preserve democracy.

"For democracy to continue to flourish, we must promote freedom of the press," Sir Julius said.

"You must use that power to constantly insist that the government and its institutions, particularly the people's parliament that abysmally fails in its constitutional responsibilities, must fulfil its obligation to operate in open, transparent and accountable ways."

Sir Julius said the power of a free press "is to create and sustain democracy, freedom, respect and the God-given right to dignity for all human beings".

"But, on the other hand, it is an equally great responsibility. With your voice, there is the possibility of abuse of power.

"You must never become a tool of special interests or a particular political party or ideology.

"You must avoid slander, rumour, and unsubstantiated accusations and ensure the protection of the rights of people," he said.

Sir Julius said the twin challenges of power and responsibility of a free press had not led to the abuse of its power as the media had tried to act responsibly in serving the people.

He said since independence, the country had experienced and adhered to forms of democracy, progress and development that "did not actually achieve the substance of change in moving the country forward".

"This is where the free press needs to step in to make people aware of the failures and help in doing a better job.

"Let me say, at the onset, that I have taken some responsibility. I have been in positions of power. I have led this country. I have been several times finance minister and I freely acknowledge that on my watch, as on the watch of others who have led this country, our people have not really moved forward.

"This is not idle rhetoric. We need to open our eyes and the press, above all others, has the power to open our eyes. And, if we open our eyes, what do we see?" he asked.

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