Our Press, Your Freedom

By · 17 November, 2020 · Blog, Features, News

How does the freedom of the press impact political and social empowerment? How does it change democracy? And finally, how does it affect you?

Join UN Youth Queensland for their final Summit of 2020 – Our Press, Our Freedom- and voice your solutions to shape our future! 

Within its Constitution, UNESCO advocates for the basic human right of freedom of expression. So does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has been called upon many times to ‘promote the free flow of ideas by word and image’. 

Freedom of expression takes many forms – the ability to protest, the right to express your views in art, and your freedom to post on social media. Many of these rights are seemingly guaranteed in Australia – for the most part, we enjoy most of these freedoms without disruption. Unfortunately, the last few years have proven that nothing is assured. From Federal Raids on the ABC headquarters, to questions of media diversity in our country – things may be more uncertain than ever. 

The first questions to ask are how we ought to define press freedom? Is it the ability to operate without government censorship or control? If freedom of press should allow anyone to speak to as large an audience as they please, then how do we filter out the illegitimate and untrustworthy? 

Social media has made it easier to circumvent the oppression of the media, as it is near impossible to track every individual media interaction. In some ways, the ‘press’ has become a more vague concept, as individuals can be producers and disseminators of news and information all on their own. However,  this has also led to the growth of disinformation and fake news, which may be even more hurtful.  

One of the most hotly debated topics in Australia in recent months is the concentration of media ownership in the country. What problems emerge when a small number of companies control the vast majority of the news we consume? Is it truly malicious, or are media companies simply working to the needs and demands of their audience? Should we trust people to develop their own balanced understanding of issues, or is the responsibility of media organisations to do this for us?

What motives do governments have to restrict freedom of the press? 

Throughout history, there have been examples where freedom of expression has been restricted in the interests of preventing disorder or crime. Indeed, even today, Twitter has come under fire for ‘fact-checking’ posts that spread misinformation – perhaps in the interests of protecting public health in the midst of a global pandemic. Some information ought to be protected in the interests of ‘national security’ – but who is the arbiter of this, and does doing so suppress certain secessionist groups in our society?

If 2020 has proven anything, it is that nothing is certain. 

The media has operated largely the same way for the better part of a century, but that could just as easily change as people’s habits shift. Young Australians are consuming media and receiving their news in a completely different way – and while that is very exciting, we are more vulnerable than ever to manipulation. Young people need to challenge the status quo and protect the freedom of the press for many generations to come.

Daniel Patava is the President of UN Youth Queensland. He is also the Coordinator of Queensland Youth Parliament and is in his final year of studying a Bachelor of Law and Arts at the University of Southern Queensland.

On 28 November  UN Youth Queensland is hosting the ‘Our Press, Our Freedom’ Summit for Students in Years 9 – 12. This summit, authored by experts in the field and featuring guest speakers, aims to teach you more about freedom of press and information, and how it relates to other rights and considerations.

Join us for this one day online event that will break down the key issues facing whistle-blowers, journalists, and national security.

We want to hear your solutions for your future. 

Register for this event here

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