Freedom of expression and media freedom - most contentious issues not only in autocracies but, seemingly increasingly, also in democracies. It's a fine line between regulating the media and strangling it. Who should be protected by media regulation? The media? The public? Freedom of expression? The government? National security?
Let's start with the media. Does the media need protection? Surely - at least to some extend media systems need to be shielded from being overwhelmed by economic and political interests. If we assume that a free and balanced media is fundamental to a healthy balance between the state and its citizens there need to be safeguards that allow journalists to report without fear of repercussions.
Does the public need to be protected through media regulation? I dare say so. It shouldn't be necessary if the media is guaranteed to be free and balanced. Libel laws protect individuals from being slandered by the media but can be easily abused to shut up inconvenient journalists. Should media regulation protect "political balance," "general interests" and "public conventions" as the new Hungarian media law does? Well, that should depend a lot on who defines political balance, general interests, and public conventions. If a government agency outside parliamentary control defines these criteria, the balance between public interest and political interest may be difficult to uphold.
Freedom of expression is a human right. States subscribing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights subscribe to this principle too and therefore should be committed to the protection of the media so they can provide the channel to "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration has it. Article 19 includes the principle of protection for the right itself, the public, and the media: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Does the government need to be protected from the media? Well - what do youthink?
Picture: Flickr user Phreak 2.0