By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
The treasuries of few countries are full enough to enable governments to allocate sums to prop up ailing sectors in their economies during the present crisis, to avoid massive lay-offs and to keep small businesses afloat. However, employees are losing jobs everywhere and unemployment is on the rise. France even hands out some aid to students to lighten the financial burden off parents’ shoulders. The challenge to established authority which the written press normally represents is also flailing about, and only a handful of political leaders have included the press as beneficiaries of state aid.
“The press is the echo chamber of multiple voices in society. The presence of a number of press papers in a small island may be viewed as a sign of intellectual vitality, but also, by some, of an expression of unwanted cacophony. Whatever be the reality, due attention to the importance of reading papers should be promoted especially among young adults. The sector is groping its way along to stand on its own. Amid lockdown restrictions and business standstill, a business magazine may look like an unessential service, but if its survival for brighter days depend on assistance right now, the plea is worth considering. And the same goes for the predicament of other papers, too…”
Undeniably, the press is an indispensable element that informs the public about daily current events at national level and the general health of society, including sociological, economic and political affairs. A few of them have an international readership and are considered as noteworthy reference in international matters in a highly connected world and a global economy. An appeal to readers on their online edition for financial contribution to keep them cope with less revenue generally draws a positive response from many of them.
Other readers may think twice before parting with a few bank notes from their accounts on a monthly basis because of the partisan stance and biased views or silence of the paper concerned on the political handling of key issues peddled by some other papers. Political correctness on societal ills and sensitive issues, compromises with toxic ideologies misleading the public, withholding information for lack of courage to tell the truth and come out with a balanced reporting let alone analysis do not meet with approval. Increasingly, readers turn to other sources than mainstream newspapers for a deeper insight into matters that concern their country and the world. For the past fifteen years or so, the younger generation has taken stock of the incomplete, partial and sometimes outright biased reporting on major issues. Consequently, they look for the bigger picture of everything happening under the sun from more specialized and informed sources in every field. Internet is their world. Much more so than their elders who loyally stick to the same press outlets to get informed.
Generally, journalists have a passion for their job, connecting people to whatever is happening miles away in their country and across the oceans. Reporters still do their job, putting their lives in jeopardy in hot spots of the world. Reporting and criticism often lead to conflictual relations with the authorities, and the consequences vary from court action for libellous reports to arbitrary arrests, depending on political regimes. In the example of a far left-wing absolute rule, a journalist is sent up for 15 years for having criticized the Communist Party in China only this week. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, there is absolute monarchical rule which sends a commando to cut a journalist down into pieces with a crude saw without anaesthesia. In between, drug mafiosi underworld has no qualms about blowing up a journalist in her car in Malta, and other mafiosi groups shoot at journalists in the country of the former gulag. Seasoned journalists keep the passion for their job alive despite all odds.
The press is the echo chamber of multiple voices in society. The presence of a number of press papers in a small island may be viewed as a sign of intellectual vitality, but also, by some, of an expression of unwanted cacophony. Whatever be the reality, due attention to the importance of reading papers should be promoted especially among young adults. The sector is groping its way along to stand on its own. Amid lockdown restrictions and business standstill, a business magazine may look like an unessential service, but if its survival for brighter days depend on assistance right now, the plea is worth considering. And the same goes for the predicament of other papers, too, for that matter.
What funds can be taken from public coffers to rescue the sector? With the string of burdens of a viral crown on its head and a garland of thorns around its neck, caused by Air Mauritius and SBM, the government is unlikely to dig in its coffers to extend a generous hand to the press. The other option is to turn to private donations from corporate business, and Mauritians locally and abroad. It is our hope that there will be an understanding, support and a general positive response.
* Published in print edition on 8 May 2020
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