According to a major new survey of more than 18,000 adults in 20 countries released on the eve of International Press Freedom Day May 3, an average of 56 percent said they believe that media “should have the right to publish news and ideas without government control”.
At same time, an average of 36 percent of respondents — concentrated mostly in Russia, several Arab states, China, and Indonesia — believe “the government should have the right to prevent the media from publishing things that it thinks will be politically destabilising”.
And while strong majorities in every country agree with the notion that their compatriots should have the right to read publications from other countries, including those that might be considered enemies, significant minorities in India, South Korea, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories disagree.
Many news outlets, most notably Al-Jazeera, has taken steps in recent years to present alternative information that would otherwise be left out of mainstream, Western media, especially with its coverage of the so-called War on Terror. Now, the network is making strides to present an English-language offshout to America.
But it is cyberspace and the actions of ordinary citizens who are changing the way we get our news. The recent tragedy in China presented why social media will change the world. China is one of the most secretive, repressive countries in the world. Usually the world didn’t know about the tragedies that happened within its borders until long after when nothing could be done about it. But, this all changed when the Chinese government couldn’t suppress information because of the unprecedented number of earthquake victims using text messaging and blogging to get relief and find loved ones.
The news media is paying attention to this development. While many journalists are slow to getting into the social media revolution, there are many in the media who are embracing the change, including the Society for Professional Journalists, who is offering training for bloggers on ethical journalism, as well as nontraditional media like YouTube and Global Voices.
The world has come a long way since the MacBride Report.