Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finland, Zambia present two opposite worlds of press freedom

By Nisha Garud

Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media 2014 scholars Brenda Bukowa from Zambia and Merja Drake from Finland brought the online International Mass Media class to a successful completion with lectures on their countries media and political structures and journalistic practices. The lectures were held at Copeland Hall on the Ohio University campus in Athens on July 14, 2014.

Brenda Bukowa during the online International Mass Media Class in Copeland Hall.
Merja Drake speaks during the online International Mass Media class in Copeland Hall.

Brenda said that her nations president determines media policies, which keep changing every five years with a new president in power. The media do not need licenses to start their business. New newspapers and TV channels crop up every day and disappear without any notices. Some newspapers are weekly but are published only monthly. Hundreds of newspapers are published during the elections and die immediately. The media are not expected to criticize the president, who gives no account of his whereabouts to the citizens.

She explained that factors like political influence, censorship, lack of finances and technology, low wages, lack of good journalism education were killing the media in Zambia. She believes that a new constitution that guarantees freedom of information, establishes Public Information Commission, and defines its functions and provides for the right of access to information will guarantee freedom the press.

Merja presented a small video about Finland to show the audience its geographic beauty. Finland, which ranks first on the World Press Freedom Index, is a bilingual country with a population of five million people. Merja explained that the secret behind the countrys top ranking is that media are not biased towards any political or social organization. The news reports neatly present both the sides of the story, which at times, make the reports look bland. If an individual is criticized in a news report, then he has the right to replay i.e. to present his side of the story.

She added that every document is a public and very few documents are classified as government secrets. All data are available on the internet for the people. She informed the SUSI scholars and the online students that the Finnish government had digitally archived every single paper right from the beginning and they were welcome to access and archive for research.

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