EDITORIAL: By Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley
Democracy! We may differ in how we understand and value democracy. But what is the essence of democracy?
On this special day, when we are reminded about democracy, perhaps it is apt that we should hear out the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
This day — September 15 — is listed by the United Nations as the International Day of Democracy.
Whatever your take is on this special day, whatever it means to you, and whether there is value in it, perhaps we need the space and time to understand it. Perhaps we may then place appropriate value on democracy, understand it, and appreciate what it stands for.
The UN states this day “provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world”.
In his speech for the 15th anniversary of the day, Guterres said: “Yet across the world, democracy is backsliding. Civic space is shrinking.
“Distrust and disinformation are growing. And polarisation is undermining democratic institutions.”
Raising the alarm
Now, he said, was the time to raise the alarm.
He said it was time to reaffirm that democracy, development, and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. He said it was time to stand up for the democratic principles of equality, inclusion, and solidarity. He spoke about the media and its place in society.
“This year, we focus on a cornerstone of democratic societies – free, independent, and pluralistic media,” he said.
“Attempts to silence journalists are growing more brazen by the day – from verbal assault to online surveillance and legal harassment – especially against women journalists.
“Media workers face censorship, detention, physical violence, and even killings – often with impunity.
“Such dark paths inevitably lead to instability, injustice and worse.
“Without a free press, democracy cannot survive. Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom.
Joining forces for freedom
“On Democracy Day and every day, let us join forces to secure freedom and protect the rights of all people, everywhere.”
In the face of all that, we remind ourselves of our role as a newspaper company.
We are sure about where we want to be, and the role we can play to move our beautiful country, Fiji, forward. We are comforted by the fact that thousands of people place great value on democracy and on information.
We know we can be a forum where issues that are relevant to our multiracial mix of people can be raised, discussed and debated.
We appreciate the fact that there must be value placed on the dissemination of information that is fair, credible and balanced.
That would mean placing on a very high pedestal the importance of news that will inform, educate, and create awareness of issues pertinent to our various communities, and ultimately nurture or trigger important discussions, irrespective of where it is you sit on the political divide.
Democracy! How important is it in the greater scheme of things? Do we understand it? How much value do we place on it? Today is a special day!
This Fiji Times editorial under the title “Value on democracy” was published on 15 September 2022. Republished with permission.