Hot Topic - Press/Media Freedom
Freedom of the press has endured, as a legal concept, for nearly five hundred years when kings were stopped from seizing printing presses. Much has changed since then. The press is sophisticated and a big business, though both diminishing under the digital roar. Perhaps the legal language needs attention.
That words and images have the power to provoke, whether a video uploaded to the internet, a radio or television talk show or a cartoon published in a newspaper, has been amply demonstrated, once again. Demonstrations against words and images offensive to some and delivered both by new and old media moved beyond legitimate protest to violence, destruction and death. Defense of media freedom has been swift and compelling.
As new media shortens the attention span of viewers and readers to 140 characters, reporters and editors are even quicker to move from one event, crisis or revelation to the next. Context is lost, some say post-modernly irrelevant. Those intent on controlling images are ever more pleased.
Conventional wisdom holds that private sector media holds political influence at bay because of the profit motive. It’s very idealistic. Where local owners are investors with wide and varied interests, new to the media game as well, standards and practices are shaped by “short-term vision.” Add rampant corruption and the media sector is poisoned.
Media freedom watchers routinely report the egregious sins of politicians against media workers. The effect is notably disheartening. Still, the pressure is attention getting.
Eight countries formerly in the Soviet orbit plus Malta and Cyprus became Member States of the European Union (EU) in 2004. Two others – Bulgaria and Romania – joined in 2007. In those early days major media and press freedom indicators showed the promise of open media in newly democratic societies. Happiness was everywhere. While there have been successes, in less than ten years those same indexes point to failure in several of the new EU Member States. Happiness now, largely, is gone.
Media watchers can wail and moan all day and all night. Once a political strongman decides to slam the door on independent media there’s little anyone can do. It’s “regrettable.”
See also in ftm Knowledge
Press/Media Freedom - Challenges and Concerns
Press and media freedom worldwide is facing challenges from many corners. As authoritarian leaders impose strict control over traditional and new media with impunity, media watchers have concerns for democracy. This ftm Knowledge file accounts the troubles of this difficult decade. 88 pages. PDF (December 2011)