Global Media Essay

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Censorship and Freedom of the Press

In 2009, Frank Bainimarama, the self-appointed Prime Minister of Fiji said that freedom of speech causes trouble and is to blame for his country's political turmoil (ABC News, 2009). This is only a small portion of controversial remarks and actions made by Bainimarama surrounding the announcement made by President Iloilo stating the abrogation of Fiji's constitution, the dismissal of the judiciary, and the deferral of democratic elections until 2014 (Puppet show, 2009). Iloilo's decision, given its relationship to Bainimarama's interim regime, which took power in a coup in 2006, being declared illegal by ruling of the Court of Appeals demanding that a neutral leader replace Bainimarama immediately with dissolution of the existing government and elections to commence as soon as possible (Puppet show).

Bainimarama expressed his grievance towards this decision by the Court and did not hesitate to ignore it as he showed up in his offices with his full cabinet the next day (Puppet show, 2009). The abrogation of the constitution and dismissal of the judiciary allowed him to be immediately reappointed (Frank Bainimarama, 2010). He went on to make several speeches targeting all the measures of reform that he believed were necessary for Fiji, specifically related to freedoms, civil rights, social change, and leadership. Bainimarama's comments about the dangers freedom of speech in the press arise from his determination to pursue the ideal of promoting public truth and justice as a means of truly educating the public with true facts (Alley, 2010).

Bainimarama is confusing censorship with a valid means for making sure that citizens believe only what the government wants them to believe. It is not about truth and justice for the good of society and protection against a corrupt press but rather truth and justice to ensure that the government remains free of dissent and in absolute power and control over public discourse and political opinions. Bainimarama continues to serve as Prime Minister alongside current President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (Fiji's High Commission, 2011). Bainimarama also serves as Minister for Finance, Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics; Minister for Information, along with other leadership positions within important divisions (Fiji's High Commission).

Since 2009, Fiji news editors have struggled consistently to get any stories past military and government censorship established, in large part, by Bainimarama (Field, 2009). According to one news editor, the military and government, (1) consider everything printed outside their control to be a potential threat to peace in the nation, (2) make and change press rules on a daily basis, and (3) require any story on government to reflect positive ideas only among other restrictions (Field). This editor also said that the press as a whole is "determined to break the culture of silence which so often surrounds our leaders-elected or otherwise" (Field).

Today, censorship is still thriving under the current regime in Fiji. Just a few days ago, censorship undermined the communication of important information between and from the Transport Workers Union in Fiji. Samoa Observer (2011) stated, "By only allowing government's side of the story to run, the people of Fiji are totally unaware that alternative solutions have been sought by Fiji's unions to the problems that plague the country's industries." This is only one example of many of the remaining powerful stronghold that censorship has on the nation and the oppressive environment that it continues to create.

Mediated Nationalism: Local or Global?

According to Dai (2010), the concepts of patriotism and nationalism have gradually become two of the main ideological guidelines in Chinese media. Nationalism is deemed a very significant force in the modern world as promoted through contemporary globalized media platforms, particularly in China. Nationalism is the expression of a political ideology, or strong identification as a particular group or subgroup of individuals with a political organization or entity that is defined in national terms and thus, in the modern world, nationalism leads to national identity (Kymlicka, 1995).

In the world, there are different definitions what constitutes a nation, different strands of nationalism depending on these definitions, and disagreements over how many different identities can exist (Kymlicka, 1995). Chinese nationalism is typically used synonymously with Chinese patriotism to define the collection of historiographical, cultural, political ideas, movements and belief systems, as one single national identity (Dikotter, 1996). Others believe that there is not single national identity or single nationalism but rather a collection of Chinese nationalisms.

In the creation of nationalism discourse within China, one must incorporate numerous dialogues as follows: the history of ideologies and practices in China, the national consciousness, ethnicities, religious traditions and practices, the history and political status of Taiwan with China, political oppositions and polarization, the history of Northern and Southern China, Chinese unification, Anti-manchuism, the Boxer Rebellion, the context of intellectualism and populism, and new issues in modern times like the role of the Internet, the media, natural disasters, among others. It is seemingly impossible to acknowledge and understand a single nationalism within China.

The media, though, plays an important role in the development of nationalism anywhere. In 2010, the Chinese media ranked very low in terms of the press freedom index (Hughes, 2011). Although, in a Chinese perspective, the media restrictions have gotten consistently more relaxed with a significant spurt of commercialization, competition, diversification in content, and increase in investigative freedom, over the years (Hassid, 2008).

Hughes (2011) suggests that a merging of nationalism and geopolitik thinking is currently happening in China, a reality that leads to an emerging form of nationalism that is better defined as geopolitik nationalism because of its enacts most of the themes that became evident in political ideologies of Germany and Japan before the two world wars. Hughes (2011) believes that exploring this emergence is a great way to gain insights into current practices in China by leaders. Thus, this type of insight helps to explain the current rhetoric and discourse as displayed by the media, which is still held tightly by the government.

Comaroff (1996) said that we live in an Age of Revolution where global communications have eroded nation-states' control over their own communications, economics, and so on. He insisted that single nations, at the local level, actually have very little control over global cultural flow. The global affront of globalization creates tensions for local people giving them the sense that they have to reassert their own sovereignty within their borders and claim a strong nationalism for their people. Thus, governments, like China, and many others, demand heavy restrictions on communications and discourse so as to maintain some sense of power and control over their people in a global context that is becoming more and more affected by globalization.

Thus, mediated nationalism is an interesting concept because in some places it is stifled because of the effect it has on other places. Chinese officials are concerned about losing a strong sense of singular nationalism or at least the facade that it exists. They believe their people need this to remain intact but in reality the officials need it to remain in tact. It could present a problem temporarily for the people to understand the reality of freedom but in the end the result is a better world for everyone. This is what happens when the global media is restricted from collaboration with the local media.

Conflict and Mediation

The media has for a long time been recognized as not simply an observer of conflicts but as a major player in understanding, addressing, and most importantly creating, conflicts both in local contexts and global contexts. It is known that there can be astounding effects on society through media in the midst of conflicts, particularly as it relates to the mediation processes that most contexts endure. In 1994, Radio Milles Collines of Rwanda incited genocide by employing metaphors and hate speech (Thompson, 2007). Many critics argue that the media was instrumental in the war breaking out in the former Yugoslavia (1998) as a tool for Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic (Perlez, 1997). The two most powerful elements of media in the context of creating and mediating conflict are discourse and imagery.

One current debate regarding the role of media in conflict and mediation is that of the Al-Jazeera network in the U.S./Al-Qaeda conflict. The U.S. criticizes the network for its biased coverage against the West as a means for aiding and abetting terrorists in their cause primarily through the use of terrorist language in Al-Jazeera Arabic while Al-Jazeera English is constantly changing, reorganizing, and omitting its communications (Fahmy & Emad, 2011). Fahmy and Emad (2011) found that the only significant difference between the two sources is that of story placement. Otherwise, they say that the overwhelming majority of attributed sources in the content are from the United States or its allies (Fahmy & Emad). It also shows that Al-Jazeera sources never shy away from negative coverage when appropriate no matter who it incites. One frequent criticism of media is that different sources express mixed messages and opposing ideas but in this study,…[continue]

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