My international journalism class today focused the flow of information in the media. The fundamental concepts, based on our readings in Global Communication by Thomas McPhail, established that a Western perspective dominates international media and portrays the developing world as “coups and earthquakes.”
This analysis of international media first emerged in the 1960s, under the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO).
The current debate evolves around developing journalism, in which the governments of developing journalism would limit free-speech in favor of stability. In other words, reports from developing countries would focus on pro-government news in the hopes of deflecting destructive criticism and continuing with national development programs.
However, allowing only government-sponsored media for the sake of stability means much more than sacrificing freedom of speech. The approach begs the question, What criticisms are being suppressed, and from whom?
Now, I’m making two broad assumptions here, so correct me if I’m using faulty logic:
- Developing nations have large poor populations who may be unhappy with the status quo (i.e. current regime), and,
- Stabilizing the country either means improving the situation of those large poor populations or suppressing them so they cannot rebel.
Now, if stabilizing the country means improving the situation of the poor, then what criticisms would need to be suppressed by pro-government news? Improving the quality of life for the majority often means making sacrifices at the expense of the elite. The elite certainly won’t buy into the limited news perspective, especially if they’re conveniently tied to the interests of pushy international corporations and U.S. diplomats.
Therefore, limiting freedom of speech in favor of stabilization must mean something else. And when stabilizing the country means suppressing the poor and eliminating their will to resist (see Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico, and Myanmar, among others), then the limits on free speech only represent the the tip of an iceberg of potential human rights abuses. Why insist on only pro-government media if the government is acting with a clear conscious? Not to mention that these restrictions on the press must be enforced, and who’s there to monitor the means of enforcement with no one allowed to blow the whistle? Who will complain about arrests, torture, disappearances or property seizures? Oh, that’s right — no one.
As Emily said in class, developmental journalism is not the only alternative to the one-way flow of information from the West to the periphery nations. One option, Emily went on to say, may include the growth of indigenous media, as people in developing nations gain greater access to the Internet.
Ultimately, what distresses me the most is that I find myself stuck in a debate as circular as the chicken-or-egg puzzle. Indigenous media is limited by resources, which are affected by global structural inequalities, which are perpetuated by ignorance and stagnation on the part of Western citizens, which is fueled by the limitations of indigenous media…