Importance of media in a free society.

Discouraging news last week from Gaza.  Hamas reportedly closed down some media outlets because it claims they are spewing lies that are harmful to Palestinians.  See here and here.

The Egyptian military did the same thing after the coup earlier this month. They closed down TV and newspapers operated by the Muslim Brotherhood because of concerns that the MB might incite violence and share lies about the coup.

The Committee to Protect Journalists responded sharply.

“Governments don’t have the right to shut down news outlets just because they dispute the accuracy of a story,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Hamas government should immediately allow Al-Arabiya and Maan to resume their operations.”

Some of my friends in Gaza support Hamas’ decision to clamp down because “these media are spreading lies.”  WHOA!

I want to shout as loud as I can … N0! – No! – NO! – NO-O-O-O!

Government should never, ever be censoring the information that its citizens receive on radio, TV, newspapers and social media.

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There is certainly plenty of garbage, lies and propaganda hitting us every day. FOX News in America is a media sewer as far as I’m concerned. The US government doesn’t close it down, and I don’t want the government to step in-between me and FOX News.  Why?

  • I’m an adult who consumes news and information with a critical mind. 
  • I don’t want the government deciding what is, and is not, information I should receive.  That is both patronizing and dangerous.  It is also a very slippery slope.
  • I learn as much about an issue by listening to the lies as I do the truth.
  • I don’t want the media to be the mouthpiece for the government, simply regurgitating what the government believes is information good for me.
  • I want media to be a watchdog of government, always asking government officials tough questions.  Always digging and not accepting the story the government shares.

People are only as free as the information is available to them.  My friends should re-read George Orwell’s 1984, which, interestingly, has been flying off the bookshelves in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal this summer.

So my friends in Gaza ask “What do we do about the filthy lies that are being spread about Hamas?”

  • Fight lies with truth.  Explain to the public why the lies are lies by speaking the truth.  
  • Provide more information from reliable sources that have strong credibility with the community.
  • Be open and transparent.  Government can only be trusted if there is plenty of sunshine on its activities.
  • If the government believes that the media is sharing lies which will hurt the people, then the government should take the media to court and prove that the information is false and defamatory.  An open and fair trial is possible if Palestinians follow the Rule of Law.
  • Closing down the media or intimidating journalists is not the sign of a “responsible” government, but a government that prefers to control and operate in the dark where people can’t see its actions.

In November 2012, Israel targeted media offices in Gaza during its 8 day bombardment.  That was an act of desperation because Israel knows how a free media is a powerful deterrent to the lies and propaganda that Israel wants to spread about the occupation.  I hope Hamas doesn’t fall into the same habit of attacking the messenger instead of the message.

Media tower in Gaza City. Israel shelled it for a second time 19-11-12 .... with journalists inside.

Media tower in Gaza City. Israel shelled it for a second time 19-11-12 …. with journalists inside.

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1 Comment

Filed under Hamas, Media

One response to “Importance of media in a free society.

  1. rbohl

    Top notch – I had an argument with my Tunisian co-worker in the emirates over this very issue. He wanted the American government to arrest the man who made that YouTube video about the Prophet – I told him this was not and should be considered a crime. Even though he often professes his love for democracy, he was still in his mindset pushed on him by the dictatorship that “bad” information or media should be destroyed. It’ll be fascinating to watch the region make the leap between the two thinking modes.

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