Freedom of Expression and the Social Responsibility of the Media in the Information Society

By Masmoudi, Mustapha | Global Media Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Freedom of Expression and the Social Responsibility of the Media in the Information Society


Masmoudi, Mustapha, Global Media Journal


Abstract

In the information society like in the industrial society, freedom of expression is a right for each and every one. That right includes the right to freedom of doing research, and the right to receive and disseminate information and all sorts of ideas regardless of any boundaries and in any form and any way of his or her choice: oral, written, printed or artistic. That freedom includes in practice special duties and social responsibilities. That right may be then restricted within clearly fixed rules of the law with the aim of securing: a) Respect for rights or reputation of others; and b) Safeguard of national security, public order, health or morality. Along with the other ICTs, the Internet is recognized as a global facilitor of information but its use should not be limited to journalism. Intellectual property, children's rights, cultural diversity, electronic commerce and international security need to be secured with the defined boundaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international resolutions adopted for that purpose and cyber criminality just like all other forms of crimes have to be fought. To this end, the right should be combined with ethics and this should be guaranteed by the four partners of the WSIS. It is these principles that should be ceaselessly defended by the southern countries.

Keywords: Information Society; Freedom of Speech; WSIS; ICT; Right to Communicate

Introduction

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have offered, since their advent, unprecedented opportunities for freedom of expression. But with their development new legitimate interests have been identified. These could restrict that freedom but afford the information society a secure judicial foundation. The objective of any regulation is in general to make sure that the mechanism of any complex system works properly. For that reason, the regulation of the digital technologies is especially difficult because it implies a universal framework to regulate freedom of communication. The issue of regulating digital communication was raised with acuteness in the preparatory meetings of the Word Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The question was to find out if the means of information could be managed by standard regulation that is by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the information society as well as in the industrialized society, everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This freedom involves in practice special duties and social responsibilities and can then be submitted to some restrictions. In fact, the use of the Internet should not be limited to journalism. Intellectual property, children's rights, cultural diversity and electronic commerce need to be secured within the boundaries of all international resolutions adopted for that purpose.

1. The New Judicial Issue

The issue of the legitimacy of the legislators' involvement of the legislator in the digital communication has been at the center of the debate between two schools in particular: the liberal school and the interventionist school. For the first, the only possible regulation is that of a free market, for the second, freedom should be regulated to allow respect of the national high values of society and secure a minimum of equity between rich and poor people. Those who have defended autocratic choices and who have tried to protect all kinds of monopolizations are excluded from this debate.

a. The Ultra Liberal Approach

Those who believe in the ultraliberal approach think that there is no reason why, in cyberspace, the media should be treated today differently from the past. It is believed that the regulations that were applied to the written press can regulate the free circulation of information on the internet. The international community already had its say on that matter since 1948 and even long before television or live transmission via satellite had started. …

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