FreeMedia and Access to Information on Global Level
FreeMedia and Access to Information on Global Level
Freemedia refer to the freedom of press publication and dissemination ofinformation without government censorship. The form of media existsin countries that have governments or other political factions thatdo not undermine the independence of media when informing the public.This implies that the press can gather information and other relevantinformation, and then disseminate it to the public without censorshipby relevant administrations such as the local government. In fact,free media are a cornerstone of real democracy since the press canreport both pros and cons of government, people or organisation. Inaddition, free media facilitates public participation indecision-making as people can express their opinion towards certainpublic issues without limitation. Nations that have free media alsoexperience high personal accountability and personal dignity becausethe media can independently report about individuals’ misdoings(Belle, 2000). Nonetheless, free media emphasise on responsiblejournalism that reports confirmed information. In other words, thepress cannot broadcast or publish rumours generated from unconfirmedreports because the public depends on the press to learn essentialinformation. For example, Baker (2010) published the Wikileaks’confidential report concerning the United States Afghan War. The USgovernment was against publication and spread of the informationbecause it contained top military secrets. However, the governmentcould not prevent local media such as the Times magazines fromrepublishing the information as the nation has free media (Baker,2010).
Applicationof new technologies such as the World Wide Web has enhanced freemedia as an individual can disseminate information to the entireworld with just a single click of a button. Each time a given firmpublishes content on its website several people can share thecontent in their blogs, social websites and other interactiveplatforms where a bigger group of people can see it. Trendyinformation benefits from free media because it goes viral within ashort time (O`Malley & Soley, 2000). The World Wide Web enhancesvisibility of free media in four main ways. First, individuals haveexclusive permission to use the content and benefit from its use.Second, the users can apply the knowledge they have learned from thecontent. Third, the users can duplicate and distribute copies of theinformation to other people who might benefit from it. Lastly, thenew technology complements new media in that an individual can modifythe content and then distribute the derived content or apply theresulting knowledge. Many social media websites contain viral freemedia shared or derived from content created by third parties.
Accessto information is a contentious issue that permits people to accesspublic information. In fact, countries such as Sweden, Australia,Switzerland and Denmark have a federal policy that prevents publicofficers and private citizens from concealing, destroying orfalsifying public documents. The citizens can request to access givenpublic information using a specified approach. However, access toinformation is different from freedom of expression. People can onlyaccess public government information if they have reasons that canwarrant the government to reveal the content. For example, a citizenfrom United Kingdom can request the government to disclose the totalbudget used to accomplish a public task (Belle, 2000). Besides, thecitizen can request the government or other relevant organisationsthat may have their confidential information, such as a paternitytest, disease information or other personal information to surrenderit to him or her. However, the UK laws prohibit individuals fromaccessing other people’s private information such as a medicalreport and their wealth. This implies that either access toinformation policy permits individuals to access their personalinformation or public information the government could be holdingthereby, restricting malicious people from accessing information thatthey could use to hurt their targets from public offices (O`Malley &Soley, 2000).
Onthe other hand, freedom of expression refers to the independence ofan individual to communicate his or her opinion in publicly withoutcensorship. Many countries that constitute the United NationsOrganisation have adopted the law in their regulations since it is apart of the “United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights”(Belle, 2000). However, the degree that people can practice the lawdiffers significantly from one country to another. For example,countries with authoritarian administration bodies do enforcecensorship. Similarly, every formal government regulates freedom ofexpression that may result in defamation, obscenity and hate speech.practices such as voting are a form of freedom of expression. In therecent past, new technology has taken freedom of expression toanother level using platforms that facilitate the distribution offree media such as social websites (Matanga & Nzau, 2013).
Thetechnology has facilitated collection of other people’sinformation, sometimes secretly for security reasons. For example,the latest communication development largely facilitated the 2013Snowden Scandal. The US government had access to vast privateinformation collected from diverse sources (Matanga & Nzau,2013). Allegedly, Snowden illegally distributed confidentialinformation that the government had collected. Castel (2007) assertsthat media plays a significant role in influencing decision makersand public opinion. In fact, he claims that information becomespublic once it reaches media houses. Snowden revealed criticalinformation that risked the lives of many governments and privateindividuals after passing the information to different media houses(Castel, 2007).
Accordingto some people, Snowden is a hero for revealing classifiedinformation that the UK and US governments were collecting fromunsuspecting customers. Shortly after Snowden successfully caused themedia scandal, he fled from the United States because as he had hadstolen government data and breached the espionage act. Both offencescarry a gaol sentence of up to thirty years. Snowden had access toconfidential, but he had taken an oath of secrecy. Freedom ofexpression does not protect or allow people to leak confidentialinformation to the media because they can access it (O`Malley &Soley, 2000). The emergence of electoral politics has become asignificant factor of political scandals. Individuals with access toconfidential information that can damage the public image of personsin power may release it to unwarranted persons to damage reputationof given individuals. For example, Snowden’s scandal attractedsevere critics for both the UK and United States’ government. Theaffected persons blamed the politicians for failing to protectgovernments from meddling with their privacy rights (Belle, 2000).
In“Communication, power and counter-power in the network society”,Manuel (2007, P. 7) argues that media determines the power of anindividual. People that can access media outlets can communicate witha large community of people. Similarly, he also asserts that mediacan be used as a counter-power of influential persons. Many politicalrivals counter the influence of people in authoritative positionsthrough creating scandals that reduces the popularity of their rivalsin public. The free media and latest World Wide Web technology hasmade it easy to distribute unfavourable private information of anindividual a rival may want to destroy his or her image. In addition,the author contends that free media limits the sovereignty ofcountries. Advanced communication has enhanced trade globalisation(Belle, 2000). This implies that countries intending to participatein international trade should implement rules and regulations thatare compatible with international policies (Wang, 2010). For example,countries located in the same region often form trade blocs thatwould make a trade among them easier. The countries agree on suitablepolicies, such as elimination of tax policies that in turn makestrade among them convenient. The Association of Southeast AsianNations (ASEAN) is a trade bloc established in August 1967 (Lincoln,2004). The member states include Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, BruneiDarussalam, Myanmar, Laos, Singapore, Philippines, and Malaysia.Although the constituent members are sovereign countries, they haveestablished common policies intended to enhance social progress,economic growth, and cultural development (Wang, 2010). In addition,the member states promote peace and stability in the entire regionthrough adoption of the United Nations Charter (O`Malley & Soley,2000).
In“Guidelines for regulatory reform”, Iosifidis (2011) argues thatstricter regulations for the new communication technologies arenecessary for a free media to serve public interests. The authorbases his research on the UK and USA regulations since most of theregulations the countries implement are used to benchmark theimplementation approach worldwide. He advocates that the new policiesshould aim at controlling liberalisation, commercialisation andprivatisation of information after the emergence of globalisation.For instance, he points out that the globalisation has madeindividual states lose ultimate capability for making theirregulations (Iosifidis, 2011). Each country makes policies that arecompliant with the international regulations since communication isborderless. Traditionally, states had higher power of determiningmedia policies because information was restrained within givengeographical boundaries. However, the new media policies advocatethat the regulations should be adjusted in a way that they wouldencourage higher public participation. Furthermore, the regulationsshould be simple enough to fit people from diverse backgrounds andbeliefs. O`Malley and Soley (2000) proposes that the regulationsshould provide several options such that individuals can have diversealternatives. Similarly, the regulatory framework should strengthenthe copyright and patent laws to prevent plagiarism incidences. Thefree media have enhanced plagiarism offences as some con artistsduplicate the ideas of other people without searching for respectivepermission (O`Malley & Soley, 2000).
Inan article called “Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: DecodingChina’s Internet media policies from the inside”, Zhang (2006)explores the restrictions of internet in china from the perspectiveof nineteen high-ranking officials. According to the officials, theinternet is a powerful form of communication that can spoil thestrong Chinese ethics the country has adopted over centuries.Besides, the policymakers argue that the western culture forms almostthe entire current globalisation trend. For example, the westadvocates capitalist and democratic governments in the whole world.However, China intends to maintain the socialist administrationprinciples. As other communists governments collapsed, Chinesegovernment has managed to maintain stability through controlling bothforeign and local media content (Zhang, 2006). The country suppressesseveral websites and online content that may spark protests oranti-communism principles through limiting the content thatindividuals can access through the internet. In fact, China has overtwo million police officers responsible for monitoring onlineactivities of various citizens. Similarly, the nation has the biggestnumber of offenders behind the bars for violating internet policiesin the world (Grasty, 2014). Traditionally, Chinese associateadvanced age with wisdom. Wang (2010) associates the stereotypingwith the rise of cyberculture policing. The government prevents theyouths from accessing free media and internet content that can makethem demand the long-standing status quo administration approach.China detains anyone who dares call for policy changes that wouldaccommodate free speech and elimination of internet restriction(Wang, 2010).
Recently,the Hong Kong has become a hotspot for administration adjustment inChina. A democratic government existed in the country for all theyears it was a United Kingdom’s colony. To achieve free media andinformation at international level, the Chinese use chat rooms andtext messaging applications to send and receive restrictedinformation online. Moreover, others use proxy applications to accessinternational websites. One of the recent messaging applications thatthe students innovated with capability of overcoming the GreatFirewall of China restrictions is the FireChat (Grasty, 2014). Theapplication sends text messages to people in the distance range of250 feet without Wi-Fi connection. Chinese government asserts that itrestricts internet access within its boundaries in order to ensurecompliance with its local policies. However, the administrativeapproach is discouraging globalisation as only local business thatcomplies with the administrative policies can thrive. For instance,businesses such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent are successful becausethey lack international rivals. A recent survey indicated that theChinese policymakers are gradually relaxing access to information inorder to enhance globalisation (Zhao, 2008).
Genderportrayal in the media is a major subject in free media andinformation access. Feminists’ groups have made it easy to accessinformation regarding women. Topics concerning the way societyportrays women across the globe are common thus, knowledge based ondifferent topics affecting women is common. The vast literatureconcerning women is essential as it enhances gender equality.Traditionally, men dominated many economic and political structures.Fortunately, free media access has enabled women to contributepositively in economic development that has in turn enhanced genderbalance in different sectors. Access to information has played asignificant role in achieving gender balance. Gallagher (2011)attributes the present gender equality to increased accessibility toinformation. The author uses research criticisms developed bydifferent feminist groups. One of the criticisms asserted that womenrarely appeared in serious news such as community developmentprogrammes that can improve societies (Gallagher, 2011). A secondstudy noted that the lack of global information created by womenresulted in female gender misrepresentation. For instance, maleauthors, journalists and other individuals with mass media accessdepicted women as men appendages, victims, sex objects, and motherswith no other societal roles (Belle, 2000). Lastly, feminist`s groupsnoted that women are underrepresented in media roles such asfilmmaking and journalists. However, she notes that increased accessto media platforms such as magazines, televisions, films, and newshas enhanced gender equality. Women are gradually breaking from thetraditional stereotype attitude and taking an active role in theeconomy, political and culture development. Nevertheless, the authorstates that gender equality is still facing critical challenges dueto media censorship. Even in liberal democracies, authors and artistsare supposed to seek relevant approval of their content based onpeace, national identity and tolerance (Belle, 2000). Relevantgovernment organisations explore media content such as novels, films,magazines and biographies to determine compliance with theestablished rules and regulations. Established regulation are a formof censorship that intends to standardise media information. Editorsensure the information complies with the government stipulationseffectively (Byerly, 2012).
Newtechnologies, such as the World Wide Web that support free mediadistribution and access internationally, has enhanced media activismand globalisation. In fact, the internet facilitates anonymity andaffordable means of distributing controversial information such asgovernment secrets. However, Loury (1994) asserts that liberalgovernments have established “political correctness” policiesthat aims at making people uphold healthy and fair discussion. Theregulations are ineffective because they prevent people fromexpressing their true concerns. For example, the Chinese governmenthas established strict guidelines on the information Chinese citizensshould distribute and post online. It also controls the informationthat its citizens can access in a day. The local policies have led toself-censorship that suppresses free speech in China (Loury, 1994).However, Loury notes that new communication technology has surpassed“political correctness” limitations as technology savvy people dofind means for navigating past the blockages. For example, Chinesecitizens still access media content the government has banned in thenation. This implies that self-censorship suppresses freedom ofpolitical expression and free speech, but has no capacity forachieving complete free media content distribution (Belle, 2000).
Freemedia exist in democratic countries that do not restrict press andexpression of people. However, each country have some form of mediacontent censorship, including liberal democracies. The artists,authors, broadcasters, and film actors are bound by laws to createmedia that complies with predetermined standards. For example, priorto actors releasing a film into the market, the content is screenedto determine its audience rating. Similarly, if a book or a moviehave controversial information that may portray a country or givenpeople in a negative aspect, it is scraped before it is released tothe public. Furthermore, the essay asserts that access to informationis not equitable to freedom of expression. Individuals responsible ofcollecting confidential information such as security intelligencehave a duty for protecting leakage of the information to unwarrantedpersons as Snowden disclosed confidential government data to mediahouses.
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