Truth, bal­ance and ac­cu­racy are our core val­ues

The East African - - FRONT PAGE -

As with nu­mer­ous other com­mu­ni­ties in the world, East Africans have taken to the dig­i­tal ecosystem with ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­u­ber­ance. How­ever, not many of th­ese have been as vo­cif­er­ous and loud in mak­ing their views heard, iron­i­cally in a re­gion where the demo­cratic space is in re­treat. Twit­ter, and other forms of so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, have opened the flood­gates of not just rea­soned dis­cus­sions but also, and most woe­fully so, of the most ar­rant non­sense. It is a far cry from the tra­di­tional space where there was one speaker and many lis­ten­ers.

Cit­i­zens, so em­pow­ered, have used their new power to ques­tion the old au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing those in the me­dia such as this me­dia group. This is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment be­cause progress comes not from ac­qui­esc­ing ac­cep­tance, but from chal­leng­ing the dom­i­nant ideas of the day. Which is why the new ex­cesses of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­tes­ta­tion on fo­rums such as Twit­ter, Face­book and What­sapp can only bode well for the coun­try.

How­ever, this is also the age of change, of rel­a­tivism – even in val­ues and prin­ci­ples – a time of moral prag­ma­tism and in­stru­men­tal­ism in which cor­ruptly ob­tained wealth is of­ten praised and suc­cess­ful school dropouts are ven­er­ated.

In this age, a con­sis­tency of val­ues, an in­sis­tence on pru­dence and mod­er­a­tion, are clearly out of step with the pop­u­lar cul­ture of medi­ocrity and ex­ag­ger­ated flat­tery. It is why ide­o­log­i­cally aligned writ­ers in­di­vid­u­ally priv­i­leged to have a fo­rum to freely dis­course with the pub­lic can col­lec­tively try to armtwist a plat­form to de­vi­ate from its de­clared po­si­tion of in­de­pen­dence!

Since its for­ma­tion in 1958, the Na­tion Me­dia Group has had a core set of con­sis­tent val­ues, that will be pub­lished else­where in our plat­forms and which guide our op­er­a­tions through­out the re­gion. Cen­tral to those val­ues, and the pur­pose for its es­tab­lish­ment, is a mis­sion to be a trusted com­pan­ion to young African democ­ra­cies, a cham­pion of the or­di­nary per­son in his/her in­ter­ac­tion with the govern­ment of the day, a voice for the rule of law and re­spect for hu­man rights, in­clud­ing the rights of mi­nori­ties, and a strong ad­vo­cate for open but car­ing free mar­ket economies.

In­deed, as an in­sti­tu­tion, the Na­tion Me­dia Group has com­mer­cially pros­pered and be­come a dom­i­nant me­dia player by stand­ing for the val­ues of truth, fair play, bal­ance and ac­cu­racy.

The Na­tion Me­dia Group is also unashamedly an ad­vo­cate of re­gional in­te­gra­tion. The peo­ples of East Africa are closer than is sug­gested by the lines drawn on a map by our erst­while colo­nial rulers. East Africa is a stronger player on the global scale when it presents it­self, not as dif­fer­ent small coun­tries, but as one re­gion united by common val­ues and in­ter­ests. Its economies are bet­ter off when they are open to each other, al­low­ing cit­i­zens ac­cess to a big­ger mar­ket for their goods and ser­vices. At the same time a big re­gional mar­ket is more at­trac­tive to for­eign in­vest­ment than small, na­tional ones.

In­ter­nally, Na­tion plat­forms – news­pa­per, dig­i­tal or broad­cast – are in­de­pen­dent and as­pire to the high­est de­grees of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency. Jour­nal­ists are ex­pected to be ac­cu­rate and fair and to of­fer a cor­rec­tion when they are wrong. They are also ex­pected to re­spect the pri­vacy of in­di­vid­u­als and show a sense of hu­man­ity par­tic­u­larly for those who are griev­ing, and not to in­trude un­less there is a mat­ter of great pub­lic in­ter­est.

The pro­cesses that re­sult in cov­er­age are open to col­leagues and de­ci­sions are made after ex­haus­tive dis­cus­sions. Edi­to­rial in­de­pen­dence is a car­di­nal prin­ci­ple: Ed­i­tors are for­bid­den to take news de­ci­sions on the ba­sis of in­struc­tions from any party, whether in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal. They are required, at the risk of se­ri­ous dis­ci­plinary ac­tion, to judge sto­ries purely on their own merit and to ex­er­cise their con­science purely on the ba­sis of the Edi­to­rial Pol­icy.

This is not say that Na­tion does not make er­rors or drift away from the eth­i­cal path it has set for it­self. Any or­gan­i­sa­tion is ca­pa­ble of be­ing wrong be­cause it is run and op­er­ated by hu­man be­ings. True no­bil­ity is achieved when or­gan­i­sa­tions have the hu­mil­ity and dis­ci­pline for self­ex­am­i­na­tion, ad­mis­sion of er­ror and course cor­rec­tion. Of­ten, how­ever, the Na­tion is held to a higher stan­dard, and rightly so. Be­cause of its size and re­fusal to pan­der to par­ti­san whims, it also comes un­der near con­stant at­tack by in­ter­ests of var­i­ous shades that at times shame­lessly ma­nip­u­late so­cial me­dia in an at­tempt to un­der­mine the Na­tion’s cred­i­bil­ity.

Is it right for East Africans to ex­pect in­sti­tu­tions such as the Na­tion to pan­der to the ebbs and flows of pol­i­tics and pop­u­lar cul­ture? Shouldn’t they be al­lowed to re­tain their role as con­sis­tent com­passes point­ing to the right di­rec­tion in the de­bate about im­por­tant na­tional val­ues? It should be ex­pected that lead­ers and sec­tions of the pub­lic will of­ten change their opin­ions about things, con­struct new re­al­i­ties and strike out in to­tally new di­rec­tions.

How­ever, it is not al­ways the case that ev­ery­one will im­me­di­ately fol­low. Such fail­ure to fol­low does not mean an­tag­o­nism or sup­port for those who op­pose such a new idea. It is that ev­ery in­di­vid­ual has the right to make up their own minds, in their own time, what to be­lieve, what not to be­lieve, who to fol­low and who not to fol­low. That is the ben­e­fit of liv­ing in an open, demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

Fi­nally, the Na­tion is duty-bound to keep its of­fer­ing rel­e­vant and in­ter­est­ing and to ad­dress the pub­lic wher­ever it is, on tra­di­tional or so­cial me­dia. In ex­e­cut­ing this oner­ous pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity, the Na­tion pledges not just to re­main true to its val­ues, but to im­prove the qual­ity of its prod­ucts and to re­tain and fur­ther en­trench its stand­ing as a true cham­pion of peo­ple’s rights.

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