The media is considered one of the most important tools of social empowerment. The media in the modern society is a tool for propagation of values and beliefs, generation of awareness on issues that the society is faced with and is ultimately and avenue though which social issues can be brought to the surfaces and addressed (Doyle, 2008). Labour movements of the 1960s can attribute their success to the interests of the media on the plight of the minority; the same can be said of the increased awareness on the effects of AIDS and increased awareness on events that are of political, business or social significance (Lewis, 2005). Another important role of the media is to provide communication between the government and the members of the public. The media performs this role by airing the problems experienced in the society that need government addressing while at the same time reporting the government’s actions and policies on different issues that affect the country. The media thus has so much influence on the members of the public that it is no wonder that the government has made efforts to control the role of the media in covering and reporting on government actions and policies. The most contemporary issues that the government has tried to control the media’s report and coverage is its policies and actions as far as national disasters which cause loss of lives and destruction to property are concerned. The most recent of such issues that has caused a problem between the media and the government on its reporting is terrorism. The media however seems not to be comfortable with these efforts hence has resulted to complicities.
The mass media which include print, screen and television have been the media types that have been most affected by this problem fore the last twenty years. The government has specifically targeted these types of media as they are the ones that reach most people within a short time nationally or sometimes internationally (Weimann, 2008). The journalists and reporters as media actors have also been adversely affected by the problem as they have been barred by security officials from collecting stories and taking photographs that cover events on terrorist attacks yet they need to look for stories that can keep them on their jobs (Herman & Chomsky, 2002).
The cause of the problem is that the government is not comfortable with the way the media covers and reports on these issues and the government’s actions and policies in addressing them. The government argues that the media is not responsible when reporting on these issues. The issue of terrorism for example has raised the major problem. One of the aims of terrorist attacks which can also be referred to as political violence is to gain publicity which can only be achieved through the media. The government claims that the media reports the attacks in a very shoddy way. It is claimed that the language used when reporting and describing terrorist attacks dramatises the violence and presents images in a form that makes it easy for the public to sympathize with the terrorists as justified to retaliate. The media not only displays it as a heroic did but as a very necessary action.
The government also claims that its policies and actions to counter terrorism have also been reported in a wrong and irresponsible way creating the wrong perception amongst the members of the public (Weimann, 2008). This has caused the government to receive protests from human rights activist groups which interfere with its operations and efforts to contain and curb the vice. The government claims that the media gives wrong reports accusing it of violating human rights and being discriminative of individuals from certain countries and religions (Grossberg, Wartella & Whitney, 2005). On the issue that concerns terrorism, the government claims that the media is being used to promote terrorists activities as it gives them too much publicity which is just what they aim for (Bret, 2008). The media also creates the wrong perception amongst the public members on such issues such as causing unnecessary panic. The government generally claims that irresponsible reporting of the media of its actions and policies deters it from effectively functioning. These are the reasons that have caused it to make efforts to control the way the media covers and reports its policies and actions.
The media on the other hand feels that covering and reporting these issues in detail is their responsibility as they need to make the public be aware of what is happening. They also believe that reporting government actions and policies without its interference increases transparency and accountability in the government (Otero & Chomsky, 2003). They also claim that as free and independent institutes, they should be allowed to function without being controlled or restricted by the government thus the conflict and complicity.
In order to alleviate the problem, the media and the government need to corporate and work together. The government needs to let the media know of sensitive issues so that they can handle its coverage responsibly. The problem seems to be caused by shoddy, irresponsible and subjective reporting of the media which has powerful impacts on the public. The media needs to realize how much influence it has on the public hence report in a responsible way using language that is not inciting to the public. As much as the media is a watchdog in ensuring transparency and accountability on the government’s side, the media needs to understand that freedom and independence is only given to those who are responsible. Responsibility will thus enable them to play their role well as they will no longer be controlled by the government.
Responsible media is the only way out of the confusion that the media has placed in the society and if any development which requires government policies and actions are to be made with regards to the terrorism and its threat to the society, there is need to ensure that media reporting is objective and develop a picture of what terrorism truly is. Until that time when the media will realise how important its role is and present the facts to the people as they really are, then there is little hope that the government will stop trying to control the media’s reporting.
List of References
Bret, S. (2008). Media Narratives Feed Terrorist Fantasies. Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition, 252 (30) pA1.
Doyle, K.O., (2008). Introduction: “Thinking Differently” About the New Media. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(1), pp. 3-7.
Grossberg, L., Wartella, E. & Whitney, C. (2005). Mediamaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Herman, E.S. & Chomsky, N. (2002). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
Lewis, J., (2005). Language Wars: The Role of Media and Culture in Global Terror. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
Otero, C. G. & Chomsky, N. (2003). Chomsky on Democracy & Education. London: Routledge.
Weimann, G. (2008). The Psychology of Mass-Mediated Terrorism. American Behavioral Scientist, 2(1), pp. 69-86.