By Aji Fatou Faal
Dr. Rasheed Draman at the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) has said that the sustainability of democracy largely depends on the presence of a strong parliament, vigilant media and vibrant civil society.
He made this remarks during a PowerPoint presentation on the Media’s role in serving as watchdogs to ensure efficiency in work of parliament recently.
He continued that the media has a very important role to play in making sure that Parliament is alive to its responsibilities: oversight and delivering to citizens adding that media often criticized for simply following what is termed the 5 Cs – conflict, controversy, confusion, chaos, and confrontation.
According to him, media is a very strong ally of parliament in its oversight function such as relationship complementary not competitive; “the power of the media is mightier than any individual parliamentarian when it comes to showcasing larger issues; but often, the media has found itself taking over the role of parliamentarians and becoming the official opposition.”
Dr. Draman revealed that parliament is sometimes unwilling, but in some cases, unable to hold the executive to account noting that the role of political journalists brings to light facts that those in power would prefer to leave in shadow whilst the reporter’s motivation can be summed up in an old saying that “they try to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
He opined that Journalists must be aware that trying to dupe and trick politicians in order to get news stories creates mistrust, “and MPs must accept that criticism and a degree of cynicism are part of the media’s duty to the public, ultimately the relationship between MPs and journalists cannot be legislated and instead a good cooperative relationship can only come from responsible and fair behaviour in their dealings with each other.”
He then quoted Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s analysis of the New Zealand Constitution and Government: “A key vehicle for public opinion acting as a check upon Government is the news media.
“Your ‘watchdog’ role against all kinds of abuse is key,” he stated.