Interview with Ralph Volcère, editor of The Seychelles Independent newspaper |03 May 2022
‘It will take quite a while for journalists to get the self-confidence they need to operate in a free-thinking manner’
On World Press Freedom Day, we talk to one of our peers, Ralph Volcère who has headed a few newspapers in the past and is today producing ‘The Seychelles Independent’.
Always fearless, he was and is always in the forefront with his investigations and never forgets to include all media houses in his ventures.
Seychelles NATION: This year's World Press Freedom day theme is ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege’. How does this theme relate to the media landscape in Seychelles?
Ralph Volcère: The media landscape in 2022 is unique in the sense that the mainstream media houses operate relatively unimpeded, which is to say they do not face harassment, imprisonment, or physical violence, by the state. However, the fact remains that it is hard to get the cooperation of the people in high offices in government and also the people heading big businesses; they are secretive and evasive when it comes to revealing even newsworthy information. This atmosphere provides room for speculations, especially in the digital sector. It is fair to say that in the Seychelles context it has gone extreme and steps must be taken to exert what could be termed “minimum control”.
Seychelles NATION: How do you see the role of the media in Seychelles?
Ralph Volcère: The media in Seychelles has a crucial role to play in the development of the country in all aspects, but tolerance is a bit on the low side and the actors at the top echelon of power are not always receptive when things are not in their favour.
Seychelles NATION: Following the change of government, there have been quite a few
criticisms of the media. Are these criticisms justified?
Ralph Volcère:Any criticisms of the media in a democracy are not justifiable unless defamation was committed intentionally. There is always a right of reply to address the issue at hand or the person affected can provide his/her version of the story to ‘set the record straight.’ However, under a liberal government free speech is a commodity that can be abused intensely even by the people in high power!
Seychelles NATION: Is the press free in Seychelles?
Ralph Volcère: To a certain extent yes, there is. As I said before, media practitioners here do not face atrocities such as forced imprisonment or physical harassment. But that is not to say that everything is rosy. In many instances, journalists have been chastised publicly by those high up in authority and this has created an impression that it is a free-for-all when it comes to cutting journalists down to size. Sometimes that inferred threat is more dangerous to freedom of expression than actual physical actions.
Seychelles NATION: Is there self-censorship by journalists themselves?
Ralph Volcère: Unfortunately, yes there is. However, this is understandable when one realises that media practitioners in Seychelles have operated under scrutiny and state control for decades, so self-censorship is a by-product of this. It will take quite a while for journalists to get the self–confidence they need to operate in a free-thinking manner.
Seychelles NATION: What is the role of training for us journalists?
Ralph Volcère: Training for journalists is an important part of their development. In an ever-evolving world, it is a must that journalists remain abreast of current worldwide trends and emerging issues. Training is a must for this as it provides the journalists with the required background to effectively report on specific matters. At the same time, it is equally important that journalists implement what they have learned during training, to give it full value.
Seychelles NATION: What is your wish to the media community on this special day?
Ralph Volcère: I would just wish all fellow media practitioners a very happy World Press Freedom Day. We have a duty and responsibility to educate and inform while remaining within the parameters of the laws in a free democratic society. It befalls every one of us to support each other and have each other’s back at all times, as well as to give our very best in our profession.
Interview by Vidya Gappy