Remarks by Ambassador Jeanne Maloney: Conflict Sensitive Reporting and Media Professionalism Workshop – Mbabane National Library

Program Director,
Speakers, members of the media,
All protocols observed.

Sanibonani.

Thank you for inviting me to be here with you today. I commend the Editors Forum for organizing this very important event. I applaud all the different stakeholders present for their contributions and submissions to this workshop on “Conflict Sensitive Reporting.” Thanks also to the experts and facilitators who have joined in person and virtually. Free and balanced media plays an integral role in building prosperous, resilient, and free societies. The U.S. Embassy is proud to support this workshop through our Public Diplomacy grant program.

I would like to open by celebrating the courage of truth-tellers who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk. We reaffirm the timeless and essential role journalism and a free media play in societies everywhere. You are commended for your steadfast commitment to keeping the people of Eswatini informed and educated, despite these challenging times.

Journalists illuminate the darkness; they are indispensable to the functioning of democracy. People rely on media to provide accurate, balanced information so they can make better decisions about their lives and for their communities. And this role comes with great responsibility – particularly as it deals with reporting on conflict. As I know you’ve discussed during the workshop, conflict sensitive reporting must include all affected communities and take into account diverse backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives. Inflating events for sensational headlines, neglecting others, stereotyping, or being disproportionately negative contributes to a less reliable guide for good decision making. I encourage you to continue holding yourselves to high professional standards.

Your role in brave and balanced reporting has never been more important than it is now; our need for accurate, fact-based reporting, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater.

I was pleased to learn that this training is not only meant to remind us of the importance of integrity and professionalism in the media, but will also contribute toward the formulation of a code of ethics for Eswatini professional journalists. I wish you the best on this effort, as you work together to produce the document that will serve as your compass.

Journalists can and should be truthful and responsible as they gather and disseminate information to the public and a code of ethics can help you to maintain that accuracy. Over the years, trust levels on the news media have declined such that even the term “responsible journalism” tends to raise eyebrows because some consider the media biased and self-serving.

However, it is my hope that this code of ethics, alongside a continued drumbeat of factual, well-researched and unbiased reporting—which I have seen—will continue to bring us closer to a professionalism that helps earn and maintain public trust.

As we look to the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to communicate details on preparations for the national dialogue it committed to support, we know that you, the media, will play a key role. In fact, emaSwati need not wait to engage now in meaningful, inclusive, and peaceful community-level dialogue to build understanding and trust. Working together, the citizens of this country can identify shared values and goals and support a process that will promote healing for the entire country. By reporting factually, responsibly – and bravely, you will help keep the public educated on this important process and its outcomes. The long-term benefits cannot be overstated.

Siyabonga