Saturday, June 18, 2005

International Journalism: Freedom of Press

International Journalism
Different degrees of press freedom is found in different parts of the world. Whether the country you are in is practising Western or Authoritarian theory of the press, it makes no difference to the fact that press freedom is relative and subjective. There is no true complete press freedom whether you are exericising rights to the Fourth Estate as watchdog of the state or constrained and restricted by governance.

Take the example of the Western free press where the government is not allowed to intervene with news written by journalists. Exemption from government's intervention in the free market may mean freedom from the government, but it is not freedom from the media owner. Where the survival of a newspaper is dependent on advertisments and subscribers, how free do you think news can be? News is written for its readers and what the readers want to know and hear is what determines the content of news. If a journalist writes something true, but is of no significance to the audience's life, the papers do not sell. If the papers do not sell, the publication cannot survive, and advertisers will not spend money on a poorly circulated publication. For this reason, some newspapers are circulated free, but these papers are unsustainable for serious news in broadsheet press. In other words, there is no freedom in free market press and the content of the papers are determine by advertisers and subscribers.

In an Authoritarian press environment, the control is primarily from the government. There may not be need for a law to censor what is allowed and what is not, because coercing through actions is good enough to perform wonders. Say a wrong word and you get sued or replaced, and automatic self-censorship and self-regulation wil fall in place. In so doing, the audience reads from the news, socially constructed perspectives of events, controlled by governance, to read and see things the way they planned.

Whether you are in a country that practices Western or Authoritarian or Communist or Developmental theories of the press, it is more or less the same. The content of all press is controlled by some form of governance and the only difference is in the degrees of 'press freedom'.

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