An official website of the United States government

Journalists: Servants of the Truth
May 8, 2015

Shaka Ssali, seated
Shaka Ssali on the set of “Straight Talk Africa.” Photo courtesy VOA.

A guest blog post by Shaka Ssali.

I often say that information is the oxygen of democracy. When I left my country in 1976, I left behind a corrupt regime. Information was manipulated, human rights were abused, justice did not exist.

Fast forward a few decades later and I find myself in a position to ask tough questions of people who play a leading role in shaping the future of the African continent. But I also open the microphone to concerned African citizens who also want to ask questions and get answers that affect their lives directly.

What I have learned is that the most important reason one will respect you as a journalist is because of your integrity. Your integrity is based on your credibility. Your credibility comes from your truthfulness. All these come from you submitting yourself as a servant of the truth, a servant of issues.

What I’ve learned during my career is that we “the people” can bring about change. Don’t be afraid to push the limits, to ask probing questions, even in instances where you may not be welcomed. You don’t have to be a journalist, you don’t have to be a member of the press. Remember, above all, you are a citizen.

Your generation has more tools of inquiry available to question the status quo. In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan coined the famous phrase “the medium is the message.” This is more true now than ever before. Digital technologies and social media have broken the barriers of access to information. You can check facts and find other points of views. You can mobilize large groups of people toward pursuing certain goals. The term “citizen journalist” belongs to your generation. Change comes when the people press for change.

Shaka Ssali is a Ugandan-born American journalist who has worked for the Voice of America for 23 years. He is the managing editor of Voice of America’s English to Africa service and the host of “Straight Talk Africa.” On his show, Shaka and his guests discuss topics of interest to Africans and the African diaspora including politics, good governance, rule of law, economic development, press freedom, health, social issues and conflict resolution.

Interested in Shaka’s work? Learn how you can stand for integrity on our YALIUnites page.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.