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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/3/20

Reinforcing press freedom

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Message Mohan Nepali
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Journalists all over the world attach special importance to May 3 as the Press Freedom Day every year. In fact, May 3 is symbolic of journalists' right to practice journalism in an independent way. Journalism is basically a public affair by its nature despite the creation of blurring lines between this public responsibility and commercial enterprise in the context of market-driven democracy. The greatest proof for this is the universal recognition of this field as the Fourth Estate. The Fourth Estate, considered an indispensable organ of a modern-day state, has to do public service rather than a private business. Undoubtedly, a media entrepreneurship can naturally aspire to gain good margins out of its investment in the business of creating media space for exercising journalism in favor of public wellbeing. But the highest honesty is to acknowledge the difference between media as a commercial institution and journalism as a public service because of its extremely sensitive Fourth Estate nature. While journalists across the globe observe this day as their conscientious reminder, it would be natural to honor journalists and their work.

Press freedom encompasses media's operational right as well as journalists' right to carry out their responsibilities in the process of imparting truthful and current information that matters to people. Press freedom applies to all kinds of media outlets that practice journalism. Since press freedom is considered a major bulwark for human and fundamental democratic rights, it essentially is journalists' right to practice journalism.

In the general global context, press freedom is the right to protect people from the violations of democratic rights by gathering, processing and disseminating information on current issues and events of public significance. Mentally and morally corrupt politicians, because of their lustful addictions, are more likely to endanger people's democratic and human rights, and journalism has an appropriate duty to defend those rights through public sensitization. Right to journalism-frequently referred to as freedom of the press-has a public responsibility to create moral and mental pressures for responsible authorities to think and act justly. It would be good not to rate this simple and usual belief as a forgettable empty ideal. It counts much because the world can never morally and practically dismiss the rationale of journalism as an integral component of democracy. It would be utterly wrong to underestimate the political significance of journalistic freedom for maintaining and enhancing democratic systems. Especially, journalism works against undemocratic efforts hindering the development of democratic culture. This right concerns journalists' access to various sources of information in the public interest.

Perfectionism is an ideal, which should be pursued positively to get better in any field. Journalism becomes better and more beneficial if journalists themselves intentionally stand in favor of wholesome thoughts and actions. Feeling to develop wholesomeness within themselves is a sort of pursuing the ideal of perfectionism. Doing so is far greater than sticking to current self-complacency.

No matter how better journalists perform, danger pre-exists in their path. This is a bitter reality to adapt to. But better performers are morally and mentally safer and stronger to justify their actions, which minimize danger. Psychological biases or psychological barriers of communication resulting from varieties of political and socio-economic settings and qualities pre-determine danger along with journalistic journeys. On the one hand, journalists' own political, economic and socio-cultural relativities affect issue selectivity, perception and presentation, and on the other, different other stakeholders' relativities similarly contribute to distinguishable meaning constructions. As journalists have to work amidst myriads of contradictions, their utmost independence and commitment to the higher good of the greatest number of people is sought. The well-researched and well-meditated book The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel stands for the pivotal concept of journalism as public service. If the principles of making truth and its verification mandatory, making journalism first and foremost loyal to citizens, and maintaining independence from those journalists cover are followed to the maximum, journalism could substantially upgrade its quality. When journalists are able to independently monitor power, along with the exercise of personal conscience and comprehensive and proportional issue coverage, journalism would be far better. This is the vision Kovach and Rosenstiel's elemental work proposes. Seeking press freedom is seeking to tell people's true stories and ground realities so that stakeholders can be accurately informed to make good decisions.

Moreover, when societies with diverse cultures and races develop a universal culture of respecting and living with differences, conflicts become the source of better changes and meticulous management. But political forces must not conflagrate conflicts; they have to create an environment of freedom, equality and fraternity for transforming differences into opportunities and co-existential progress. In this context, conflict-sensitive journalism is vital. Practicing journalism with a conflict transformative-perspective is far better than making journalism excessively dependent on conflicts. A reinforced and elevated press freedom can help develop conflict-transformative journalism.

The greatest danger journalists face today comes from unmanaged conflicts and political forces with nexus to criminal networks. These are the vital issues press freedom advocates and researchers need to address frequently and robustly. A mere recitation of incidents and victimizations would not corroborate press freedom and journalists' moral power.

Democracy is not a private business though lustful politicians would prefer it to. Press freedom is a key tool to socialize and democratize society, promoting transparency and accountability among political forces and authorities working with public funds under democratic systems meant for people. This is one of the focal areas for which press freedom is always expected to be utilized comprehensively.

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, global media have been updating their audiences on how advanced nations are coping with the crisis. Even in the scientifically advanced era, developed nations have born heavy losses. The question here arises: Are globally powerful media uncovering the underlying flaws of commercialism in health policies across the globe and the real plight of the have-nots? Just for the sake of reinforcing press freedom on a global scale, becoming mindful of how we are revolving around oligarchies and their powerful voices, scantily heeding the majority of the voiceless, the shapeless and the powerless, would be relevant while we ponder over press freedom. 


 

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