Launch of LJI Journalism Competition
February 6, 2019
Monsieur the President of the High Authority for Audi-Visual Communication
Monsieur the Minister of Communication
Monsieur the Ambassador of France
Monsieur the Resident Coordinator of the UN System in Togo
Madame the Director of ISICA
Esteemed members of the press
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to take the floor in the name of Ambassador Vizy and Ambassador Mama at the launching of the second edition of the Laurels of Impact Journalism. This competition bears witness to the importance that we give to quality journalism.
The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson once said, “the free press is the mother of all liberties.” That is to say, a free press is what protects all the rights that we cherish in a democracy, because any encroachment on these rights will surely be exposed when journalists have the freedom to publish and report without censorship. This is why Nelson Mandela called the free press, “one of the pillars of democracy.”
Yet, this power that the free press has comes with a great responsibility: the responsibility to be accurate, objective, ethical, and accountable. In short, we need a press that is not only free, but professional.
This initiative, the Laurels of Impact Journalism, was created to encourage and reward journalists who adhere to the highest professional standards of their craft. We are extremely proud to support the second edition of this initiative.
It is more important than ever that we – collectively – support professional journalism. We are living in an era where we are, quite simply, awash in disinformation. In the past, there were only a few sources of information. With the coming of the internet, news sources multiplied exponentially. And today, thanks to tools like WhatsApp, information can come from anywhere, unaccountable and anonymous.
This is a gravely serious problem, because for a democracy to function well, it requires a citizenry that is well-informed and operating on the same set of basic assumptions. To counter the proliferation of disinformation – often called Fake News – the U.S. Embassy launched a program last year that trained over 300 journalists and community leaders on how to identify and expose fake news. As part of this program, we will be disseminating regularly short videos that take apart particularly egregious examples of fake news. I am please today to be able to show you one of the first examples . . .
(Cue the video to be projected on the screen)
Our thanks to Noel Tadegnon, the creator of this series of videos, who is here with us today. Noel, thanks very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, without underplaying the impact of project I have just described, the truth is, the only way to counter the spread of disinformation in the long term is to support the professionalization of the media class in Togo. The Embassies of France and the United States, the UN Coordination System, and ISICA are in perfect agreement on this point. This why we agreed to sponsor the 2019 edition of the Laurels of Impact Journalism. Today, when it is all too easy to share uncorroborated information, we aim to support Togolese journalists do the hard work of verifying information, seeking corroborating sources, and maintaining skepticism. This competition is our small contribution to honor those who live up to the highest ideals of the craft by demonstrating accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.
To conclude, I can only wish good luck to all the competitors and look forward to May when we will celebrate the free and professional press of Togo.
Thank you for your attention.