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There have been various debates as to whether everyone has the right to access information concerning the operations of the government as well as information of other organizations that work hand in hand with the government. Even thou constitutions of many nations enacted the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that allows persons access to information, there those nations that have gagged the media industry and information is filtered before it is released to the public. It is however important note that the political stability of a nation determines the freedom of media and access of information; for those nations that enjoy free democratic space then their people tend to have easy access to information as compared to those nations governed by tyrants and dictators.
The purpose of this essay paper is to answer several question related to mass communication and the right to access information, the questions are does the right to know exist in a special way for the media? Is the right to speak equal to the right to know? How is the right to know political? Is the right to know an essential part of press freedom? How does a knowledge economy affect the right to know? Is knowledge a public resource or a private asset? What is the significance of the FOI Act to mass media? Is the political role of the media affected by the FOIA? The right to know, the right to share, and the right to speak are affected by copyright law, which protects the intellectual and other proper rights of individuals. How do media manage and/or fail to preserve these competing rights?
Does the right to know exist in a special way for the media?: In many nations the media acts as the “public eyes”, it is the media that breaks news of the various events happening in the nation as well as revealing the dark secrets related to corruption and national security. In addition to that, it is the media who get access to the raw information before it releases it to the public; this is the right that most media houses have. According to hrea, the media should be granted all the privileges and rights required in order to report accurate information (hrea, 2003). There are however some limitations that the media faces in its quest to be free and fair and give the right information, some of them include restrictions imposed on individual journalists to access information and structural restrictions that have been put in place by the government that hinder or slow down research work (hrea 2003).
Is the right to Speak Equal to the Right to Know?: There are different reasons as to why people speak and also different reasons as to why people strive to know certain things, this therefore means that the right to speak is not equal to the right to know. According to AccessInfo, the are two ways in which human beings have access and know information; proactive and reactive parts. In proactive it is the responsibility of the government and other public information to give out all the relevant information pertaining the activities of the organization whereas the in reactive it is the right for a person irrespective of his/her social, economic or political status to demand for information from the government and any government owed body (AccessInfo, 2010). This therefore means that by having the right to ask, one has the right to know.
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How is the Right to Know Political?: Even thou many nations has passed and enacted the Freedom of Information (FIO), most of the media houses tend to abuse this law and use the information they get to tarnish the image and reputation of respected members of the society. For instance the NPR reported in 2006 the then president of United States of America, George Bush Jnr, denounced a story appearing in one of the leading papers in the nation “The New York Times” that the government was running a program that monitors private banking accounts. This is because it is against the law for the government to access a person’s private information without their consent; in addition to that some of the information accessed may be used against the person politically (NPR, 2010).
Is the right to know an essential part of press freedom?: The only way that the press can claim to have total freedom is if they have free access to all the information, it is however the responsibility of the same press to ensure that the public has access to the same information. According to hrea, there are some types of information that is not easily revealed to the press no matter how hard they demand; for instance information related to national security and about persons under government protection (hrea, 2003).
How does a knowledge economy affect the right to know?: Having a great wealth of information empowers one to determine what is right and wrong, this is because in many situation people make wrong decisions because of having wrong information. Another advantage of have a wealth of information is that it gives one the desire to learn more about what he/she doesn’t know. Is knowledge a public resource or a private asset?: There are different categories of knowledge, there is positive and negative knowledge. To determine as to where it is a private asset or public resource depends on its content; public knowledge, which is mostly positive is knowledge that can be accessed by students, professionals and other persons to help in the growth and development of the nation. As a private asset knowledge is used for personal growth and stability.
What is the significance of the FOI Act to mass media?: According to NSA, the FOI act is a law that has allows the press and the general public access to information; it is however important to note that the U.S government has the right to decide which information can be accessed and which can’t be. Generally information related to nation security is rarely released to the media (NSA, 2005). The importance of this act is that is has enable the public be aware of things that they did not know ever existed especially those related to corruption and other scandals.
Is the political role of the media affected by the FOIA?: According to Folkenflik, the Freedom of Information Act is losing its influence because in most cases there have been reports of the government of the day spying on members from different political parties and other people who might be a threat to the government (Folkenflik, 2006). By learning the secrets of the competitors the government of the day is in a position to come up with better campaign strategies in preparation for elections. This however in contrast with the Freedom of Information Act that prohibits illegal access to another person’s information without their permission.
How do media manage and/or fail to preserve these competing rights?: The rapid growth and development of the information and communication technology sectors has changed the way information is shared; in the modern day way world information can be shared using the phone as well as the internet as compared to the previous years where the only source of information was through print media and television. The advantage of this liberalization is that there is little privacy and an increase in copyrighting. Whereas different media houses are competing to share out information, most of them do not have laid down policy for the protection of intellectual property, copyright and other rights. It is therefore important to say that the reason as to why the media has failed to preserve the competing rights is because of an increase in piracy and copyrighting.
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