On this World Press Freedom Day, we examine the media landscape while also celebrating this fourth estate meant to promote democracy and freethinking.

In recent years, particular attention has been given to the role of media systems in shaping people’s understanding of institutions like the Judiciary, and public affairs.

This is especially true when breaking news and judgments make their way to our phones through online platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter before a journalist has time to publish an article or make a news report on TV. While journalists may now rely on social media to gather information for their reporting, it is worth examining what the traditional media can offer outside of that realm to their readers and viewers now that the information landscape has changed.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is, “Journalism under digital siege”. While media on the international scene might experience heavy online monitoring and censorship, in Seychelles, the media are safe and enjoy much freedom; therefore they face a different difficulty concerning digital media.

Now more than ever, the media is meant to analyze information, encourage discussion, and fact-check when pinned against the dangers of social media speak, misinformation, and fake news. The digital era’s impact in increasing freedom of expression and access to information in Seychelles means that journalists have to work even harder to add value to what they do.

The development of Seychelles’ democracy and people’s search for transparency and accountability with its institutions have pointed towards the importance of having a robust public service media system as the most reliable means of enhancing people’s understanding of politics, legislation, and the justice system.

News media in Seychelles can offer thematic forms of reporting, so audiences can grasp the causes of social, economic, political, and judicial trends and events. It can question various legal issues, support further knowledge of the law, offer context to judgments by delving deeper into how the rule of law is applied to a specific court decision – thus further informing the public than simply transmitting the decision. For instance, asking questions such as “why”, rather than simply asking “what was the verdict” is what gives meaning to news media.

News in the digital era can cause incomplete narratives, with things ‘just happening’, without any context or education. More importantly, when storytelling ignores causes and consequences, it prevents the public from learning about alternative ideas that may deliver different outcomes.

The Judiciary continuously seeks to understand this. We see the independent media as an important vehicle for communicating with the public, and we are proud to have been able to build a stronger relationship with media, by understanding that ultimately media professionals can act as an ally in public education, discourse, and analysis.

We have come a long way from restricting access to courtrooms to now releasing media summaries of high profile cases, granting interviews on pertinent topics, offering guidelines to accessing the courts and giving the media this sense of freedom in their reporting of court cases – so long as it is done responsibly.

We are aware of newsroom constraints, including deadlines, squeezed budgets, limited resources and trainings, demanding managers, distribution difficulties, and sometimes draconian media laws. This makes for a challenging work environment, and it is easy for journalists to lose sight of the big picture.

This is why working in synergy, rather than reactively, with media is key to empowering them and creating an informed public.

The big picture is that the work of journalists reflects how we, as humans, interact with each other and is a measure of how well our society and its different systems are functioning. If the press performs to its full capacity, it can act as a catalyst for democracy and development, helping to make public participation meaningful.

We wish all media practitioners in Seychelles a happy World Press Freedom Day, and thank them for their immense service to our country, wishing them courage and strength as they continue this noble profession.