Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Constructive or Destructive Role of Media

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Constructive or Destructive Role of Media

The right to freedom of speech as one of the basic human rights enshrined in main international human rights documents and national law. Freedom of speech is the inseparable element of a democratic society: Whether the society is democratic or not, can be defined by the factor of independent press and mass media. The main functions of mass media are to cover the events, gather and spread information and finally to control the activities of state authorities. It used to be said that the mass media is the fourth power after the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The society, in its turn, may exercise control over the authorities in case it is aware of its actions and if necessary can intervene; for instance through voting during the elections. Nevertheless, media can play destructive role, such as time killing movies, playing violence, divisive or hatred literacy, if it is not organized on the basis of national interests.

More clearly, the constructive role of media is that they have freely access to information so as to monitor and control over the state authorities exercised by the society and to the maintenance of the self-controlled society, which is the demand of democracy. The definition of a self-controlled society means that it itself shall make own decisions. And the society can do this in case it is informed in aggregate with the open exchange of opinions.  Mass media as an instrument for the exercising of freedom of speech and expression gains importance for a democratic society. Hence, Political pundits believe when the people are aware of the facts, and the country will be calm. 

According to Article 50 of the Afghan Constitution, “Right to Know” or “Right of Access to Information” is a fundamental human right for every Afghan citizen. Playing an important role in the fight against corruption, the right to access information increases transparency, accountability, public participation, democracy, development and paves the way for journalists prepare investigative reports that inform the public. The limited access to information by citizens is an obstacle in fighting corruption and increase transparency and accountability. Access to information encourages citizen participation, ensures good governance and social inclusion, promotes free media and improves the efficiency of public institutions.  

Also, according to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Conventions, to which Afghanistan is a signatory, the democratic states guarantee the right to freedom of speech and expression, which also provide restrictions and respect for these rights prescribed by law, as there is no freedom which is absolute and unlimited. Yes, it is necessary to exercise freedoms in order to have a democratic society, but their limitations are also needed for the maintenance of the democratic society. And the most important in this issue is that the limits of freedom of speech correspond to the two key preconditions: necessity in a democratic society and statute-established, as the rule of law is the basis for democracy.

In order to specify the role of freedom of speech and expression in a democratic society, it is necessary to show the demands of democracy addressed to mass media: they shall criticize the authorities when state officials and politicians make mistakes; news shall stimulate criticizing attitude towards the political course of the authorities; news and entertaining programs shall be defined according to taste of audience.  However, there are exceptional cases such as protection of national security, promotion of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

Overall, democracy is meaningless without Freedom of media and freedom of thoughts but in conflict or post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan- there is a dire need to promote media literacy as a safeguard against destructive and divisive strategy of enemies. Media literacy is also important for new or transitioning democracies. In these circumstances legal frameworks are usually under development and will greatly impact the future state of independent and free media. The greater the media literacy, the more prepared audiences (and information providers) will be in deciphering messages and recognizing value and credibility. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy. Media literacy includes understanding code of conduct and knowing the quickly changing media landscapes. This is particularly relevant in today’s age of social media, and ever developing media technology. Media literacy also involves recognition of the use of, and power of, subtext. Subtext is the context or background of the primary message and may include images, background audio, and framing, each of which conveys specific messages, associations, and insinuations.

To benefit from constructive role of media, media management is vitally important for nation building, peace and prosperity of a nation. It is highly important that our people realize that today’s world is ruled by media monopolies; positively or negatively it can affects our thoughts, attitudes, society, families and future generation. On the other hand, limitation of media is counted freedom of thoughts; therefore, it is greatly imperative to organize the media on the basis of national interests and convergence culture.

Citizens can also play role if they are made aware that anything smells of division is either the movement of enemy or ignorant elements; they can be trained how to use new media (face-book, tweeter and etc) to participate or monitor social, political and administrative issues. In addition, new media can largely put an end to the monopoly of traditional media. Otherwise, it is obvious that a neglecting sheep nation will beget a government of wolves.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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