|WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
26 mins. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) for World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 1998. Directed by Steve Felton; Production company: Mubasen. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia, Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016. http://www.misanet.org
A young journalist is given an assignment by her newspaper editor: "Write an article on World Press Freedom Day by 3 May." Short drama sequences set the framework of the film, and introduce the documentary elements which have been commissioned from film crews and reporters from around the MISA region of 11 southern African countries.
The action is set in the offices of a local newspaper, where the reporter is an actress, but the stories she finds are all too real. The Internet becomes a window into a world which she discovers. Information is there - the Windhoek Declaration of 1991, which calls for a free, independent and pluralistic press. Interviews can be called up with journalists in the print and broadcast media throughout southern Africa. These become full screen television pictures. The audience is brought into contact with people and stories around the region, and learns that the press is a vital, but fragile element in a democratic society.
Reports include the murder of Ricardo de Mello, assassinated in Angola in 1995. Press harassment and censorship become issues in the film, which describes the banning of the Post newspaper in Zambia and the imprisonment of its editor, who makes a spirited defence of his journalism.
But it is not only the press which faces restrictions. Blatant government censorship of the television news in Swaziland opens the debate about who owns and controls the media in southern Africa. Are private ownership and pluralism the same thing? Not if powerful individuals own whole groups of newspapers, and radio and television stations, too.
The media is under threat. According to some, it is irresponsible, unpatriotic, and sensationalist. It must be controlled. Some see media councils and licensing as necessary reforms, others say they are attempts to gag journalists. The film reflects the debate.
This is not the reporter's only assignment. One day she is personally confronted with a story based on a source who wishes to remain anonymous. For her, press freedom assumes a personal significance.
The film is a voyage of discovery, whereby the journalist -and the audience - learn why press freedom is important to everybody.
CRITIQUE : not critiqued.
(Taken from MISA publicity, 1998)