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The Press Between Freedom And Privacy Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2041 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The freedom of press has been chronologically developed from the subjection to the rulers and governments to the supervision on them. What does this freedom add to the press? Many authors believed that this freedom increases the important role of the press in democratic societies. Press protects human rights against unjust rulers and builds background information for the people about the events that happen through the world. Other authors view the freedom of press as a destruction of people privacy life.

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In the previous decades, press was under the control of rulers and government. In Richard Anderson’s article “Freedom of the Press” ( June 23, 2008), Anderson reveals that critical speech or papers about governments were subject to punishment by the English law whether the critic was true or not since governments believe that any critic would affect the honesty and integrity of politics. When the democracy shined in the world, the press breathed a quiet sigh of relief as its freedom became possible. The democratic society is based on the variety of ideas and concepts related to social and political life. As citizens, people need to share and receive ideas among each other and they need to express it in different forms such as printing it. This is the main reason that made freedom of press or speech under the protection of human rights (Valeria, 2010), but what does the term “freedom of press” mean? According to European Union’s Chart of Fundamental Right, the freedom of press is directly related to media liberty in gathering different information whereas according to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the freedom of press is defined as broadcasting information in print form (as cited in Valeria, 2010). The freedom of the press is not only considered as an individual right but also as an institutional one. It is characterized by the right to publish and print information (Anderson, 2008). With this freedom, thousands of magazines and newspapers were established over the world covering different domains such as: political, social, sport, fashion, etc. The freedom of press constitutes one of the important components in the democratic society on which it represents a supervisor on the government, protects human rights, and builds knowledge for people about the outside world events.

One of the important roles the press occupied is the inspection of the governments. In Balding’s article “Press Freedom: Every Citizen’s Right” (February, 2007), Balding acknowledged that newspaper among other media types conserves its work as a supervisor on the government and on any violence action in the society. European Court of Human Rights stated that press let people know and judge ruler attitudes where it represents a watchdog on the political officers (Valeria, 2010). According to Stewart (1975, as cited in Anderson 2008), maintaining the political systems honesty and detecting any corruption in society are among the important roles of the press. When the politicians feel that they are inspected from public, they tend to complete their duties honestly. Any suspicious work or corrupted act by politician will be spotted by the press and broadcast to the public to take the right decision for such act. Hence press allows people sharing the government its role in managing the affair of the society and thus satisfies the principle of democracy: The people are the source of authority. Anderson (2010) states that the press has an important role in checking whether the criminal justice system is working properly or not. This can be achieved when the press attends the court to record the trial and broadcast it to the people to know the reliability of the judgment, thus consequently obliging the justice system to be fair. An example about this press role is what happened in 2001when Estada – the president of Philippines – was ousted by people after the press broadcasted his corruption where most of public was displeased from his policies such as the removal of sovereign guarantees on government contracts. This role can be extended to a stage where journalist can ask about authority and honesty of politics (Valeria, 2010) and as a result of this role, the press is known as the Fourth Estate.

Another role the press played after attaining its freedom is the protection of human rights. Valeria (2010) demonstrates that an important role of press is the protection of human’s rights such as protection against racial discrimination. Press always tries to protect rights of people since protecting them will protect the press itself. An important right the press works hardly to protect it is the freedom of expression since this right is the basic of its existence and according to Valeria (2010), freedom of expression consists of three main interdependent parts which are: the freedom of opinion, the freedom of information, and the freedom of press. Press also sheds the light on the violation of human rights that some governments do. In 2005, U.S made a war on Iraq under the cover of protecting Iraq’s people right but the press showed the criminal act of U.S military against Iraq people. As a result, many journalists were killed under the cover of belonging to terrorist parties. Another example that reveals the importance of press is the broadcasting of the discrimination that black peoples suffered in the American society which ended finally by equality between black and white people and present president of U.S.A is a black person. All this events prove the great role of press in protecting human rights.

The final role the press got it after the announcement of its freedom is the informing of people about the outside world events. According to Douglas (n.d, as cited in Anderson 2008), press give the public the right to know the information that are important to us. The idea that the press was built on when it is constructed is the broadcasting of information and events that happened among the world. The press builds an intercommunication bridge between people of different countries because it shows them the events that happens inside or countries or in the neighbor ones. With the help of the press, people know the major and international problems that the world faces. For example after the industrial revolution, a lot of factories and pollutant machines have been invented leading to an increase in the emission of CO2. This excessive emission leads to the presence of the global warming phenomena. Without the presence of media and press, people would not know about this serious problem that threatens the nature. Moreover, press shed the light on this problem and imposes some awareness messages about this problem in addition to some solution that are proposed by experts. In 2004, when “Tsunami” happened in Indonesia, press had an important role in broadcasting this human disaster to the world viewing the big destruction that Indonesia and Indonesians have due to this event. In this case, press not only played a role in broadcasting international event but promoting humanitarian feelings of people toward each other. With the development of media and means of communications, world has became as a global village where all peoples can know the events that walks around them. This thing decreases the isolation among people and improves their background information in the world they are living in. On the other side, to insure that the press can inform people about events happening in the world, the journalist’s sources should be protected. In Valeria’s article “Freedom of the Press – A Component of Freedom of Expression” (2010), European Court claims that protection of the sources of journalist is necessary so the informers can supply the journalists with the sufficient information they need to cover the events but this protection should not be unlimited.

On the other hand, many authors reveal that freedom of press violated the privacy of people. In Zhendong Sun’s article “Balancing Freedom of the press and the Right to Privacy: Lessons for China” (February, 2006), Sun claims that press broke the right of privacy of individuals with the help of technology. Journalists gather information about people secretly without any knowledge of them and they gather and print private information of people under fake names. The laws that were written to protect the press freedom and the use of technology by journalists such as recording machines and cameras made the illegal interceptions of people’s private life by journalists easier. Some newspapers disseminates wrong facts about politicians or famous persons without any consideration to the effects of such act just to attract more readers and to have high income (Sun, 2006). It is right that press concern is to report matters that attract people, but this does not give them the right to search in people’s private life to fulfill their goals. The program “Where Are They Now?, ” gives specific details about the position of a person who were in the past a popular one ignoring the person’s agreement about such an act (Sun,2006). Names and pictures of people have been used by press for commercial purposes and for advertisements (Sun, 2006). Furthermore, journalists today are lying on the interviewers to get their needs. In 1971, two journalists claimed that they need a medical advice from a sorcerer but they record his diagnosis and used the video as a evidence in the court to prohibit sorcery (Sun, 2006).

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It is true that the press freedom with the help of technology made journalists violate people privacy in some cases but it is unfair to consider that freedom of press cancelled the right of privacy of people. First of all, the court considered that a person that accepts to converse with others should be responsible about his conversation since they have the right to repeat what he said (Sun, 2006). In other words there is no illegality behind the actions of the two journalists mentioned before. Also, press has the right to search for the true to satisfy justice even if this requires the seeking of person’s private life. For example, journalists are allowed to attend lawsuits in the courts – although it is considered private – to insure that the judgment is fair and that the judge is honest. In many cases, journalists search in people life to check their living situation and if they have problems so they can inform the government to solve it. One of the known programs that shed the light on people life problems is the “Al-nashr” program in Lebanon. This program goes deeply into the people private life and presents their problems to the public to help those who need help. Because of this program, more than 30 personal problems were solved by governments or by charities. Without this program, Lebanese government and citizens would never know about these “Private” problems and they will not be solved. This contradicts author’s opinions that press cancelled people privacy.

As a conclusion, the freedom of press is considered as an essential part in the democratic society. Schmidt (2007) demonstrates that the freedom of press constitutes one of the important components in democratic societies. It develops the society and the government, provides people with information, and improves the government’s efficiency. Also, press protects human rights from being violated by governments such as freedom of expression and right of equality among peoples. In spite of these important roles that are occupied by press, some authors criticize the freedom of press as being breaks people’s privacy. Nowadays, the wide variety of media made the people have the full control on the way and on the time of receiving information and whether they like to interact or not (Balding, 2007). For the press to be as useful as possible it should be restricted to its duties, both legal and ethical and it should respect people’s equally important right (Sun, 2006).


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