World Press Day :
Today is World Press Day, and I wanted to write about the importance of freedom of the press and its ties to a democratic nation. Even today, in 2010, it is confounding that propaganda is being instilled by authoritarian countries, such as China and Burma to suppress its people. The Burmese government, in particular, goes through such extremes to use methods of violence to stifle the media, including imprisonment and torture.
I received a tweet from a friend today, stating that Burma, also known as Myanmar, was on the list of the 10 worst countries that violates freedom of the press.
Mizzima News states, ” The Burmese junta continues to monitor internet cafes, and at least 17 journalists were arrested and imprisoned by the end of last year.”
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press is instilled within a democratic society and has been a constituent factor of a democracy since the early works of the social contract. The media is the link to a free market place where people can interact and share ideas.
Restrictive media laws in non democratic states inhibit freedom of speech evidenced when statements against the government lead to a penalty under the law. There are 2200 political prisoners in Burma. Many have gone to jail for their political activism, and others have gone to jail for simply watching international news from Voice of America or BBC.
Peace cannot be attained in a country where a man is jailed for speaking the truth. Like many dictatorial states, Burma also known as Myanmar, a country victimized by military oppression suffers from lack of a free press. The media in Myanmar, in the hands of an authoritarian regime, is manipulative as the people are coerced to believe the government’s influence and are too intimidated to speak.
Myanmar’s Military Government and Censored Media
The Burmese government, known for its human rights abuses, uses intimidation and threats to instill fear into Burmese citizens. Through the media, the military government manipulates and controls its citizens. Restrictive media in non democratic states inhibit freedom of speech evidenced when statements against the government lead to a penalty under the law.
Protests in Myanmar and negative views of the government are banned; journalists are imprisoned and tortured if they are found to be disrupting the cohesiveness of the country’s mentality. The military regime scrutinizes the everyday life of Burmese citizens; and people are arrested as they speak about the government or the country’s politics. People are also punished if they watch or listen to BBC, Radio Free Asia or Voice of America. The people have no rights and are robbed of simple liberties such as the ability to speak on topics that they’d like, or even watch and listen to what they prefer. The media is strictly state controlled and is a function of the government’s propaganda machinery.
Propaganda is Everywhere even in a Democratic Nation
Propaganda exists in both democratic and authoritarian states. In a democracy, propaganda is much more difficult to succeed. However, even when the people are misled to believe false information, the truth eventually wins out in a true market place of ideas. Sensationalized media is seen as a consistent problem even in a democratic state. Misrepresentation and shabby reporting are against the ethics of fair news reporting instilled in a democratic nation; thus the public becomes the vigilant eye on the media- making statements against shabby or false reporting.
Newspapers controlled by the Burmese military carry little political truth. Free press is viewed as a threat to the authoritarian government; hence, the government uses propaganda to sway the thoughts of their people. Propaganda is dangerous as it is used to misconstrue the beliefs of the general public. Myanmar is suffering from democratic deficiencies and remains far from obtaining democracy without a free media.
Since it’s World Press Day, I’m feeling a bit generous in my blog. I wanted to show you some of our VOA members and the reports that we do, through our short TV opening.
VOA’s Opening for TV: