Free Media Fosters Dialogue
Perhaps the best way a media can work towards building mutual understanding is by strengthening the media culture itself. A media that is vibrant, independent, pluralistic, inclusive and fair, editorial free and beyond censor and influence from interests, political, commercial, or otherwise – only a free media will innately contribute to the dialogue and understanding across divides. Moreover, a media that is free is essential for the provision of information and knowledge upon which informed democratic participation and good governance depend.
Journalists must be able to practice their profession without fear. They must move freely to collect facts and views, to disseminate news, to demand accountability from those in office, and to protect their sources. In turn, journalists must exercise the highest ethical and professional standards and conduct themselves in accord with general ethical principles.
It is vital that media outlets and professional associations encourage accurate, professional and ethical reporting. This can be done by establishing voluntary codes of conduct, providing training for journalists and setting up mechanisms of self-regulation. Such media accountability should be organized through self-regulation systems that facilitate the direct dialogue between readers, listeners, viewers or internet surfers and the media professionals. Only the application of high professional standards will give media the credibility with their public.
A political climate of openness and transparency is needed for citizens to contribute in the monitoring of the economic, social and political issues in their community and wider society. Pledges to increase transparency and accountability in public administration must be backed up with laws granting full access to areas of information in the public interest. National information laws must provide for full and open access to publicly held information. Actualizing this right to information will ensure that the media can find the information that is needed to hold those we elect accountable for what we have elected them to do.
The media not only acts as a watchdog against abuses by authorities or large corporate bodies – they also empower citizens with the information they require to exercise their democratic rights. In this way the media can cultivate good governance by enabling a dialogue between the public and their elected officials. Additionally, the existence of a genuine, editorially independent Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) reinforces the open dialogue and provides the society with diverse programming of educational, cultural and scientific character, in addition to news, entertainment and sports. Being at the service of the public also entails the responsibility to mirror society as a whole, to give voice to minorities and marginalized groups and to stimulate dialogue among all the different groups in the society.