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Volume 16, Number 2
February 7, 2010

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorial preview: Ditching the rule of law, for what?
Bernal, Predatory power
Jackson, Looking ahead --- and above
Sirias, Pacifying the gatekeepers
Leis, Neither censorship nor violence
Kim, Mom
Weisbrot, Why Washington cares about countries like Haiti and Honduras
Obama, State of the Union address
McDonnell, GOP response to the State of the Union address
Reporters Without Borders, US marines censor Haitian photojournalist
Human Rights Watch, The successors to Colombia's AUC paramilitary
Amnesty International, Recommendations to the new Honduran government
Weeks, Ecuador's trials with democracy
Haperskij, Europe and Cuba
Fillion-Robin, Harper and Canadian parliamentary democracy
Hursthouse & Ayuso, ¿Cambio? The Obama administration in Latin America
Carlsen, Isacson, Smith & Barry, Obama and the Americas
Letters to the editor

Neither censorship nor violence
by Raúl Leis R.

Those of us who live in this country would like to stop being passive receivers and become better perceivers of the communications media. Perceivers? That's about having the conditions that allow us to decode perceived messages, use them in practical life, to be participants and to activate our consciousness. It's what we will be when we establish a new use of the media, by way of getting ahold of those elements that turn out useful in our process of educational, cultural, social and human construction.

We are readers, radio listeners and television viewers who have a right to be informed in a clear, true and objective fashion. Thus we don't permit censorship against the right of expression, thought and information, as we have been warned of in the government's recent declarations. John Maxwell Coetzee, the 2003 Nobel literature laureate, put it well: "The remedy is worse than the illness. The institution of censorship gives power to people with a prosecutorial and bureaucratic mentality that's prejudicial to the cultural, including the spiritual, life of the community."

At the same time, the media should avoid the abuse of messages of violence, discrimination or stereotypes, along with sensationalist treatment of the news. The media have a moral obligation to their viewers to make an effort to know the world in which we live and, despite the commercial and political risks, democratize the vision of society and make it possible for perceivers to form a profound, complete and unfragmented opinion about reality.

We, the people, have the right to be portrayed by the media in a broad, dignified, and dynamic way, with our own values and participation, through our experiences, decisions, needs and demands, as José Olivari pointed out.

We perceivers have a right to constitute a communicative citizenry, associations in which we defend our rights, and to be guaranteed representation before existing institutions. It's an obligation of the state to facilitate the conditions and open the spaces for the strengthening of civil society in its relations with the media.

The media are called upon to play a public service role, and be the communications channels of, as Keane put it, "a community of authentic ways of life, tastes and opinions, in order to enable a plural citizenry that's not governed by despotic states or market forces." Communication is a fundamental right of the human being, and as such it takes its place alongside the conceptions of other rights: life, liberty, health, education, shelter and others.

Only a coalition of the best efforts can help us improve the quality of the media and merge entertainment and information with guidance and conscience. It requires, on one hand, respect for the freedom of expression, and on the other, stimuli --- positive reinforcement and citizen pressure --- to push advertisers and communicators to take a qualitative leap in radio and television programming as well as the print media.

It's important to promote critical reading of and education about the communications media that will permit a better capacity to discern among their messages: the creation of television viewers', radio listeners and readers' advocates, and the participation of a citizens' media observatory in media self-regulation schemes, which concentrate both on the quality of communications services and in the strengthening and deepening of thinking, expression and information.


Also in this section:
Editorial preview: Ditching the rule of law, for what?
Bernal, Predatory power
Jackson, Looking ahead --- and above
Sirias, Pacifying the gatekeepers
Leis, Neither censorship nor violence
Kim, Mom
Weisbrot, Why Washington cares about countries like Haiti and Honduras
Obama, State of the Union address
McDonnell, GOP response to the State of the Union address
Reporters Without Borders, US marines censor Haitian photojournalist
Human Rights Watch, The successors to Colombia's AUC paramilitary
Amnesty International, Recommendations to the new Honduran government
Weeks, Ecuador's trials with democracy
Haperskij, Europe and Cuba
Fillion-Robin, Harper and Canadian parliamentary democracy
Hursthouse & Ayuso, ¿Cambio? The Obama administration in Latin America
Carlsen, Isacson, Smith & Barry, Obama and the Americas
Letters to the editor

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