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Critically Evaluate the Relationship Between the Media and Democracy

Essay by   •  August 13, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,847 Words (8 Pages)  •  2,145 Views

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"For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we serve as willing or unwitting instruments" (Noam Chomsky). In the light of Chomsky's views and focusing on recent news events, critically evaluate the relationship between the media and democracy.

Democracy is undoubtedly associated with freedom: freedom of choice, freedom of speech and freedom on actions. In order to be able to make sound choices, one has to be informed about the options and have a clear vision and understanding of the overall environment. Hence, information is critical for the democracy process, and this is for at least two reasons. Firstly, in order to make informed choices, citizens have to be aware of the current situation, and secondly, information plays the role of a "checking function" that ensures the elected representatives fulfill their oaths and continue to work in the interests of those who elected them (Centre for Democracy and Governance, 1991).

While a democratic state management system appears the most appropriate system for most people, not many realise the extent of the distortion of the information we receive. Various available sources of information supply the public with a vast array of new information every day. What's more, beside the sources which simply state the facts, news sources follow up with personal investigation projects and vigorous discussions. This kind of media representation leads how we interpret the different sides of the argument and allows us to comprehend the event from a 360 degree view. However, the down side to this is it can create space for one party to push its point of view, especially if it is a medium of authority or power. Therefore, information is an extremely liquid matter which can be shaped and presented in many ways.

Democracy favours the spread of information; however, there is always somebody who controls what information is leaked to the public, the form it takes and the angle from which it is presented. This means we receive an adapted product with an artificial flavor. It is because of this scripted representation that we seek the original product. An example of this is when eyewitness reports are manipulated so the public are shown an account of the story the media wants you to see, rather than what is actually taking place. Such an event was highlighted in August 2011, when a Brisbane Channel Nine news reporter faked a live cross to where the remains of Daniel Morcombe were reported to be located. The helicopter was actually hovering above the Channel Nine studios at Mt Coot-tha. It was only due to a rival network that filmed the Channel Nine helicopter at its studio when it was saying that it was over the site, that the farce was revealed (ABC, 2012). It is because of this tainted representation that the public seek the information in the least distorted form possible.

A phenomenon that has happened in recent years is WikiLeaks. This not-for-profit organisation strives to supply the public with important news and information. In contrast to most other media sources, WikiLeaks gain access to the original documentation and publish this on their website so their readers can see the evidence of the truth (WikiLeaks, n.d). Much of the information released by WikiLeaks comes from anonymous sources, and the highly secure anonymous drop-box system guarantees safety to the information providers. However, none of the stories that are placed on WikiLeaks are published without verification. WikiLeaks is highly protective of the authenticity of the incoming information; therefore, they use traditional journalists' investigative methods along with external verification on the info (WikiLeaks, n.d). The WikiLeaks team conducts an analysis to determine the cost of forgery, motive, opportunity, the claims of the apparent authoring organisation and answers a set of other detailed questions about the documents (WikiLeaks, n.d).

In contrast to engaged news providers, WikiLeaks comes in an advantageous light, it stands up for authentic information and does not serve anybody's interests. This is in complete contrast to other countries whose media can be in the hands of a political power, which is very common in post-communist countries or in the hands of a few powerful families which is true for some South American countries (Centre for Democracy and Governance, 1991).

In a somewhat different role in the fight for information comes in the form of the Leverson Inquiry. The Leverson Inquiry plays the role of moderator rather than supplier of information. The Leverson Inquiry was a task force set up to review the culture, practices and ethics of the Press in the United Kingdom (Leverson Inquiry, n.d). The decision of when to have the inquiry and why it lies solely in the hands of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is regulated in the Inquiries Act (Leverson Inquiry, n.d). The following abstract describes the Inquiries goals and is taken from the Terms of Reference and recommendations of the Leverson Inquiry:

"Terms of Reference:

a. contacts and the relationships between national newspapers and politicians, and the conduct of each;

b. contacts and the relationship between the press and the police, and the conduct of each;

c. the extent to which the current policy and regulatory framework has failed including in relation to data protection; and

d. the extent to which there was a failure to act on previous warnings about media misconduct.

Recommendations:

a. for a new more effective policy and regulatory regime

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