Our journey continues.
Our globalized world is marked by extraordinary progress alongside unacceptable — and unsustainable — levels of want, fear, discrimination, exploitation, injustice and environmental folly at all levels.
How the last session brought us here
- We discussed the basics: Different generations (3) of human rights. Sometimes, the 4th generation is said to be the rights of the future generations. And, it seems, the media and communication technologies will have great role in that.
- We also discussed the specific focus of this course. We are taking the global outlook but a very local attitude: the media, communication technologies, and human rights together are a core theme of global debates, paramount in terms of the future development of our planet as a whole. Yet, equally, these are everyday, ‘hyperlocal’ issues for all of us, in our highly mediatized world. That’s why we are drawing from our own experiences and expertise, making connections betwwen theory and praxis.
- Apropos: Here’s an 8-minute audio reflection by Prof. Dr. Marko Milosavljevic from the University of Ljubljana. He, too, had taken part in the open consultation for the EU report. He explains what he finds to be the core issues, what kind of outcome he expects, and why he feels media and communications researchers should take a stand.
[Marko knows what he’s talking about. He was Chair of Department of Journalism from 2007 to 2011, and a Chairman of the Expert commission for Pluralisation of Media at Slovenian Ministry of Culture from 2009-2010. He was a member of Experts’ group for new Mass Media Act (2009) and Public Broadcasting Act (2009) at Slovenian Ministry of Culture. He was a Chairman of Expert commission for radio and television programmes at Slovenian Ministry of Culture from 2002-2004. He is a member of National Committee for Information Society since 2010.
AND: He’s written for main Slovenian media including largest daily Delo and leading political weekly Mladina.; for daily Der Standard, the largest quality newspaper in Austria; as well as features for magazine Paper from New York. He was correspondent for press agency IPS from Vienna. He was reporting on international policy for Delo as well as writing interviews and features about pop culture; with, among others, Metallica, R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, twice), David Byrne, Henry Rollins, Philip Glass, Depeche Mode, Pharell Williams, Rammstein, Duran Duran Bryan Ferry, Air, Massive Attack, Blur, Patti Smith, Moby, … As well as Christina Aguilera…]
UN and the development of Comm Rights – a refresher course
- How has the media and comm tech become a global human rights, development, and governance question? Arguably, most discussions around media, communication and human rights in the past decades have have focused on national contexts of building and maintaining democracy — mass media, after all, were structured around national systems:
- The rise of mass media in the 19th century = information could be shared, at least potentially, not only by the elites, but by vast groups of people, regardless of economic or social standing = democratization of communication.
- In the 20th century, many countries chose to establish a public broadcasting system to ensure several components that had to do with the media’s relationship with democracy: universal access to media contents; diversity of all kinds of contents (famously, the trinity originally attributed to the BBC: public media should inform, educate and entertain); as well as a variety of voices and viewpoints, also those of minorities.
- In the academic contexts, the normative model of the public sphere by Jürgen Habermas has often been used in defense of such thinking: a democracy needs a diverse functioning media to guarantee a public sphere where citizens (virtually) meet to debate (rationally) and agree (consensus) on common issues.
The above discourses on media and democracy have a Western conceptual history, but with globalization have become prominent in international contexts:
- The idea of Development Communication often included the idea of (more) universal access and, hence, establishment of vehicles of public service media.
- The new tech = issues are increasingly borderless, global.
- The the idea of democracy and democratization now embraced the concept of ICT4D.
The context of the United Nations and global debates on the role of the media reflect the above development:
- Freedom of Expression is defined already in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1946, Art. 19.
- The discussions on Right to, and Freedom of, Information entered the debate in the 1960s — when the role of governments and states were questioned and the rights of individual citizens to information were brought forth.
- Around the same time, the lesser developed countries begun to bring up the Right to Communicate: They wanted to challenge the Western domination of mass communication. Active partners in the conversation were UNESCO, proposing the New World Information and Communication Order and the so called UN McBride Commission(1980).
- In the 1990s, the idea of the Right to Cultural Identity was added to UNDHR — and challenged in fora such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) , and later in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in terms of copyright agreements.
- Also in the 1990s, the UN recognized the increasing importance of the Internet and organized two major meetings on the issue: The World Summit on the Information Society. It soon became clear, also with the beginning of the UN-driven Internet Governance Forums, that Communications Rights was the term several stakeholders started to use as an umbrella term for the new challenges of the networked era.
Read more here from a short summary article on the historical developments above.
- Much of the recent debate has focused in the Internet and Human Rights. In late 2009,Finland declared broadband access a legal right. The UN followed in 2011 in declaring the importance of access:
“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states,”
– Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, in his report to the UN Human Rights Council
- Note to self: While human rights seem universal, they can also been seen as relational and contextual, even when we think about the Internet. For instance, the question of access may include challenges of corruption and concentration of ownership, as some African activists argue.
From one to two reasons why communication technologies and the media matter for human rights
- Freedom of expression, and other ‘classic’ communication rights.
- The media and communication technologies as a means to an end, assisting in realization of other rights: political participation, work, education, health… [more on this in the sessions to come — and in your projects.]
Why discuss 1. AND 2. — right now?
The so called UN Millenium Development Goals have been in place for 15 years, addressing poverty and hunger, education, maternal and children’s health, diseases, environmental sustainability, and global co-operation. They are about to be replaced. The new UN Sustainable Development Goals will be decided upon in September 2015.
As a recent article in the Guardian reported, civil society groups from 77 countries came together to call on the UN to make access to information and media freedom central to the post-2015 development agenda. The article highlights that freedom of expression and access to information are crucial for the future goals in general:
Quality, current and accessible information is crucial to establishing the scope and nature of development challenges. It empowers people to hold their leaders to accountand participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
It also forms the basis of a free and independent media, which, as media development NGOs [non-governmental organizations] such as Internews have emphasised, plays a vital role in safeguarding development. A free media informs, facilitates public participation through open debate and helps to hold those in power to account.
The lack of information about development targets is considered to be a significant factor in the failure to meet previous targets. The UN secretary general’s special adviser on the millennium development goals Jeffrey Sachs, publicly acknowledged how problems posed by out of date data have hindered progress on achieving MDG targets.
Bringing it all together: Assignment Week 2
Paraphrasing Marko’s reflection: You are already experts in the crucial field for democracy and development: the media and communication.
This week, you will write a collaborative position paper about why communication, related technologies, and the media should be a part of Sustainable Development Goals as their specific own goal. Why does it make sense (not only economically, but socially, culturally…)?
Week 2 readings (in Dropbox), most of them very practical, will help you:
- Intro & an essay by Cees Hamelink: the role of comm research in social justice and human rights work.
- The latest “synthesis” report of the UN Secretary General on SDGs.
- A brief by UNESCO on the media and post-2015 goals.
- A brief by DW Academie on the media and post-2015 goals.
- … And one extra: The IAMCR report from a few years back on comm research views on human rights.
- Plus, a tab within this blog with more resources.
… And feel free to do research of your own. Feel free to bring in your theoretical and empirical expertise into this conversation.
You will work in 3 teams of 10+ or so people and compose your essay in Google docs. You will receive an email invitation to your team. Each team member contributes an idea or an example = 2-3 sentences. I will edit the texts and we will share our essays amongst ourselves to see the wise arguments and solutions we could come up with, collaboratively. You will find detailed instructions in the Google docs.