Many journalists across the globe find themselves putting their lives at risk for a story.Censorship, interference and death threats from governments have forced some journalists across the globe to find alternative ways of making a living because they fear for their safety. These sentiments expressed on the third day of the 10th annual Global Investigative Journalism Conference at Wits University.
Azerbaijanian journalist, Emin Huseyno, Ethiopian journalist Andualem Sisay Gessesse and Myanmarian journalist, Lawi Weng were the panellists for the roundtable discussion on reporting under repressive regimes which was moderated by University of Hong Kong professor, Keith Richburg.
The discussion served as a platform for journalists from different countries to share their experiences on practicing journalism in their respective countries under repressive regimes.
Weng gave a presentation demonstrating the extent to which the Myanmar government and military control the media. “When it comes to reporting conflict in Myanmar there is always division and misrepresentation between local and international media, because of the military and governments influence,” he said.
South Sudanese journalist and conference delegate, Sheila Ponnie, described practicing journalism in her home country as “scary and dangerous”, saying that “the government has eyes all over the country. Journalists are constantly told they are the people who report bad things and say people are hungry when they actually are,” she added.
A journalist, who requested that his identity be hidden, spoke about the challenges confronting journalism in his country citing the lack of independent media, a growing self-censorship of journalists, death and detention threats, one sided journalism, as well as the coverage of pro-government news.
“Because I love my control and want to continue staying in it, I have resorted to starting businesses to make a living and not using our bylines when we do cover stories. We avoid most issues we are supposed to be covering, to protect ourselves,” he added.
A journalist for TheTelegraph in India, Sonia Sarkar, said there was a huge division in the media in India. “One section of the media decides to be propaganda machinery and the few journalists who attempt to challenge the state are branded as anti-nationalist,” she said.
The closing remarks from the moderator drew audience members to focus on the importance of rising above the challenges faced by journalists and using creative methods that will ensure their safety and that of those they report on.