As the World marks World Press Freedom Day today, May 3, the West Africa WASH Journalists Network has called on media practitioners to use media tools in drawing global attention to human tragedy caused by lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation by the world’s poorest communities.
As we celebrate press freedom today and advocate for new frontiers for expanding the freedom, media practitioners must realise that Press freedom comes with a meaning and a responsibility. Press freedom means we have more powers to demand greater rights for our people, and we have a responsibility to ensure those rights are granted and guaranteed by national governments.
As the global press discusses the theme of this year’s event : 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers, the West Africa WASH Journalists Network urges Journalists all over the world, including the west African sub region to use the media to break down frontiers and barriers that deny people access to basic water and sanitation service.
Access to Water and Sanitation are basic human rights but almost two thirds of the world’s population do not have access to safe sanitation services. Diarrhoea, one of the health effects of poor sanitation, kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
The Press can reverse this ugly trend by amplifying the voices of the poor who are most hit by the absence of these services, the press can advocate for change through editorials, features, news stories and articles, by calling the attention of national governments to the need to prioritise and provide these basic services, the press can fight for the poor that lack access to WASH services through investigative reporting tracking funds that are budgeted for WASH projects to guide against misapplication and misappropriation.
As the World Marks the World Press Freedom, the West Africa WASH Journalists Network urges its members in the fourteen countries in the West African region as well as other Journalists world wide to realise that freedom of the press is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
The freedom we are advocating for in the media must be tied to freedom of our people from polluted and expensive, freedom of our people from ill health and indignity, freedom of our people from water borne diseases, freedom of women from open defecation, freedom of our children from diarrhoea that kills 5000 of them globally every year, and freedom of our people to a healthier life.
Racine Kane Babatope Babalobi
Coordinator General Secretary
MAY 3, 2011