One of the common things about all human beings is that all of us make mistake one time or another. To err is human, but what distinguishes a clever human and a dumb one is that the former will learn from his mistakes whereas the latter will keep on committing the same.
Leaders are human and therefore leaders too will make mistakes. But clever leaders will learn from mistakes and be even cleverer. The dumb ones will will keep on shooting himself on the foot without realising it.
I have said before that the litmus test of a good leadership is not that it will not make mistakes but rather it realises its mistakes and takes corrective steps to correct the shortcomings, as well as not to commit the same mistakes again.
When democracy was at is infancy in the West, politicians realised that sometimes, a mistake had to be pointed out before those who committed it became aware of the mistake.
So they realised that the best way to get feedback on whether they had committed mistakes was to have a free media.
A 18th century British Statesman, Edmund Burke, once professed:
“Three Estates in Parliament; but in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth estate more important far than they all”.
The 3 estates that he referred to are the 3 pillars of democracy, namely the Executive Branch, the legislative and the judiciary. The Fourth estate is the press. To the westerner, the press plays an important role of a watchdog, and the press gives valuable feedback to the government.
A free press is like a mirror, the reflection in it will tell those who stand before the mirror whether they have button their shirts properly, whether they have zipped their pants, whether there are blemishes on their faces, and so on.
All of us depend on mirror on the wall to give us an idea whether our countenance is presentable.
Like wise, a government needs a mirror to see whether it is doing alright or whether it has committed errors that might affect adversely the livelihood of the people.
To a government, a free press is the mirror that it needs to see its reflection. In his book : age of turbulence, Alan Greenspan mentioned that from what he has gathered , not a single nation which allows a free press suffer from starvation. Not in the past, and not likely in the future.
It is because with a free press, a government can immediately sense a mistake before it is too late. The press will give the necessary feedback like an early warning system.
So a free press is not only the fourth pillar of democracy, it is a friend of those governing, even if the press publishes writings that maybe critical of certain policies or the decisions of these governing figures. A good friend is one that gives you counsel when you have done wrong; not one that praises you even if you have made a mistake.
If it is a friend, then it should not be stifled. It should be allow to publish what is on the ground…
A free press in this modern era encompasses not just the printed media, but the electronic press as well as the blogs.
I do not know about the reasons of the recent banning of the 2 political papers, but i hope that this is not the beginning of a clampdown on the blogs, the newspapers as well as on the freedom of speech.
No one would be stupid enough to break the mirror on his wall just because he or she does not wish to see his or her ugly countenance. It will not help to remedy an ugly countenance to a presentable one. We must realise that even without the mirror, an ugly countenance will still be an ugly countenance, except that without the mirror, there is really no hope to take remedial steps to address the ugliness and turn it to a more pleasant looking one.
A clever leader therefore should not clamp down on the media and the blogs. Instead he should take steps to nurture press freedom.
By doing so, he would have taken important steps to prevent shooting himself in the foot .