The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development

The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development

The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development

The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development

Synopsis

An independent press is essential to sound and equitable economic development. The media helps to give a voice to the poor and the disenfranchised. An independent press also provides a solid foundation for a free and transparent society.'The Right to Tell' contains an outstanding list of contributors from Nobel Prize winner and former World Bank chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz to Robert J. Shiller author of 'Irrational Exuberance', and Nobel Prize winner and novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Contributors to this volume explore the role of the media as a watchdog of government and the corporate sector, and the policies that prevent the media from exercising that role. 'The Right to Tell' assesses the media's function as transmitters of new ideas and information. This book also evaluates the damaging effects that an unethical or irresponsible press can cause to a society.Several of the book's contributors describe the role of the media and the challenges they face in specific countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, the former Soviet Union, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. These fascinating case studies highlight the media's ability to act as a catalyst for change and growth.

Excerpt

Over 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. And many of these poor people not only suffer from physical and human deprivation but also lack voice in decisions that affect their lives. Moreover, corruption and weak governance corrode aid effectiveness. Undoubtedly, there has been progress on these challenges, but de- velopment is a complex issue involving actions on several fronts. A key ingredient of an effective development strategy is knowledge transmission and enhanced trans- parency. To reduce poverty, we must liberate access to information and improve the quality of information. People with more information are empowered to make better choices.

For these reasons, I have long argued that a free press is not a luxury. It is at the core of equitable development. The media can expose corruption. They can keep a check on public policy by throwing a spotlight on government action. They let people voice diverse opinions on governance and reform, and help build public consensus to bring about change. Such media help markets work better—from small-scale veg- etable trading in Indonesia to global foreign currency and capital markets in London and New York. They can facilitate trade, transmitting ideas, and innovation across boundaries. We have also seen that the media are important for human develop- ment, bringing health and education information to remote villages in countries from Uganda to Nicaragua.

But as experience has shown, the independence of the media can be fragile and easily compromised. All too often governments shackle the media. Sometimes con- trol by powerful private interests restricts reporting. Low levels of literacy, human capital, and technology can also limit the positive role the media can play. And we have seen the impact of irresponsible reporting and manipulation—witness the dev- astating effects of war propaganda in Rwanda. It is clear that to support develop- ment, media need the right environment—in terms of freedoms, capacities, and checks and balances.

The World Development Report 2002 Building Institutions for Markets devoted a chapter to the role of the media in development. This volume is an extension of that . . .

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