The theme of the October 23, 2023 show revolves around the media world. It is important to analyze the role and function of the media but especially alternative media platforms which position themselves as the voice of the people. Thanks to the world of technology, every citizen is now equipped with the ability to be citizen journalism. Thus, information is created and shared at a phenomenal speed. The “Ki Nouvo Moris” program received guests Rajen Valayden and Murvind Beetun to debate on the subject of the media. Both investigative journalists recognize that the media world which is the 4th power has experienced several changes and this affects press freedom.
The debate was hosted by Ashvin Gudday.
What conclusions do you make of the current situation?
The current situation is that the media world has deteriorated over the years, claims Murvind Beetun. This deterioration has several aspects and several faces. The democratic space in which the Mauritian press operates is diminishing, and this is not good for the public interest. When something is not good for the common interest, it shows that the country is doing badly. In Mauritius, as everywhere else, the press plays a vital role because it shapes public opinion.
“To help the population see clearly, the press and journalists must be upright, honest and they must play their role by being a plunderer of democracy. Despite the political and economic pressure and intimidation, the duty that the journalist has must remain intact. Indeed, the profession of journalist requires that the person has a duty towards himself and towards the population, as such as to enlighten public opinion and participate actively in the education of the nation.”
It is unfortunate to say that there are many journalists who become mercenaries who do not hesitate to help politicians to put forward their political agenda which can be seen in the form of manipulation of public opinion. It is a total deviation which can be observed. For some years, an « invisible hand » has been reducing the space of the press and even if the press and journalists want to do something, they unfortunately cannot. Often, they are forced to carry out the orders of their directors who receive orders “from above.”
Indeed, several journalist cannot write on certain subjects such as the scandals and abuses of the political party in power or the frauds of large companies because the company in which they work is pro the current regime.
The press is a counter-power declares Rajen Valayden. The decline of the press dates back a very long time. There have always been repressive tendencies in the media world. In the world, more precisely in France or India, over the last 10 years, large capitals have bought up several media companies. Very often it is done from a political agenda but above all an economic one. The big powers want to control public opinion on order to try to dictate the market and encourage consumerism. The press has become an industry which, through advertisements and promotional offers, helps large companies maximize their sales and thus profits.
“The press is no longer what it was before. It became a business.”
What legal framework has been established to ensure the protection of journalists and the media company?
How to implement a freedom of information act when the population and certain members of the press do not have freedom, says Rajen Valayden. The democratic space is shrinking. Having laws that will allow people to have access to information is necessary; however, those who form public opinion are manipulating the information. The current regimes instead of promoting democracy are passing liberticide laws which are killing the press declares Murvind Beetun.
“The free press practically no longer exists. Before we could say that the laws were slowly killing the press, now the death of the free press is accelerating.”
It is important to have an alternative press that would not have economic pressure. Rajen Valayden says that there are 6 dimensions of alternative media:
- Completely independent.
- A democratic structure.
- Have multiple and independent sources of information.
- Citizens can participate.
- Copy left.
- Must take actions.
Rajen Valayden concluded that an alternative media cannot only report information, it must also be educational and engaging. It is a fact that a media which is independent and which promotes democracy is what the population wants. Indeed, having a media which gives the population the possibility of voice out, which makes documents available to all and which brings together citizens, trade union groups, ecologists and activists will help to shape public opinion in a good way and without advancing any political and economic agenda.