Press Freedom contributes to Empowerment

In order for citizens to engage in public debate and to hold their governments and others accountable, key elements of living in a participatory democracy, citizens must have access to free, pluralistic, independent and professional media. The idea that communication and dialogue between different members of society will occur naturally cannot be taken for granted, and the media provide a means of access to information and igniting dialogue.

Fueling the democratic discourse

The media can fulfill a watchdog role by reporting on the activities of governments, civil society and the private sector. A plurality of media outlets is key for this to occur because of the breadth of material to report on and to ensure that different opinions will be heard. The media enables citizens to be informed and participate in their society, which generates real empowerment. Accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is the best defense against ignorance and uninformed decision-making.

A Huge Task……

In all facets of community life, the media play a central role as the conduit for information and potentially a catalyst for activism and change. For example, development issues can have a polarizing affect on a community, encompassing a debate that can stretch from economic benefits to environmental impacts to overall quality of life concerns. Through media, a non-threatening informed debate can ensue that can yield positive outcomes for all stakeholders. In these instances, media ensure the voices in a community can be counted as much as the financial interests of investors in any one particular project.

It becomes increasingly evident that the responsibility to accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is critical to the media’s relevance and respectability in a society and to the community’s ability to fulfill its role in a democracy. Without the informed participation of its citizenry, a democracy is sure to crumble. If those in power are manipulating journalists, the media become a propaganda tool plunging the society into ignorance, indifference and despair.

Press Freedom today…

Press freedom is still not guaranteed in many parts of the world. With 171 journalists killed in 2007 , a number just short of the record, and hundreds more threatened, imprisoned or tortured, it is not difficult to understand the challenges that must be overcome. These acts are unconscionable, not only because they violate the human rights of individuals, but also because they are detrimental good governance and democracy, namely, the flow of accurate and reliable information. On the other hand, advances in ICTs bring ever greater potential for the media to reach more people in more places and in practice enable people to have access to information and express their opinions. ICTs open up the possibility for rapid widespread distribution of information and for transparency and good governance to become practical realities.

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