Addressing environmental threats requires a paradigm shift, yet media houses remain financially constrained, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA- Botswana Chapter) Chairperson Thomas Nkhoma has said.

Speaking during the commemoration of World Press Freedom and Regional Summit in Gaborone, Nkhoma called for unity in a cause greater than the media itself and invest in capacity building, new technologies, and funding models for investigative journalism and cross- border collaborations.

“We are not here solely to discuss problems but to devise solutions. Media requires a multifaceted approach, including legislation, policy formulation, and sustainable funding models that promote transparency and fairness.

“Furthermore, we must protect the media from threats and harassment that limit independence and freedom of expression,” Nkhoma said. He stated that last year alone, 97 journalists were killed in the Gaza- Israel war, and over 100 died in the Ukraine war.

“As MISA, we advocate for a free press and call for constitutional reforms promoting press freedom,” he said adding that Botswana is hosting this regional summit for the first time, thereby providing a platform for learning and interaction on crucial media issues.

“This year's theme, ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis’, is particularly timely. Our world is grappling with issues of deforestation, desertification, global warming, and pollution.

“Scientists have reported 2023 as the hottest year on record, and signs indicate that 2024 could rival it,” he stated.

Nkhoma emphasised that as the media plays a critical role in society, it must fulfil its function of providing information and education by reporting on environmental issues. This, he said, entails ensuring verified and credible news dissemination to contribute to the understanding of these challenges.

In its solidarity message DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - stated that this day raises awareness about the importance of press freedom and encourages governments to respect and preserve the right to free expression, which is inscribed in Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). “The 2024 theme, 'A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the environmental Crisis,' emphasises the importance of journalism in tackling environmental concerns. The media must be empowered to report on these issues, encouraging informed public discourse and holding governments accountable.

“Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) addresses the fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information”, Ditshwanelo said.

The article declares that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Ditshwanelo added that this article emphasises the necessity of maintaining people's freedom to express their opinions, beliefs, and ideas without undue interference.

“It also emphasises the necessity of open access to information and the freedom to distribute it without restriction across boundaries. The article lays the groundwork for press freedom by emphasising the role of journalists and media in advancing democracy, encouraging discourse, and holding power accountable.”