Globethics.net 10th Anniversary: Information as a human right: debating the path to improved access
Access to information is an inalienable human right that should be promoted but needs to be respected, nurtured and used appropriately if it is to be used for the greatest benefit, panellists at a discussion to mark the 10th anniversary of Globethics.net agreed. Speakers from international and regional broadcast and communications bodies, as well as NGOs, examined the question of access to information, in a panel discussion moderated by Dr Stephen Brown, programme director, Online Libraries, at Globethics.net.
Director General of the European Broadcasting Union, Ingrid Deltenre, said the EBU was very similar to Globethics.net in that it defended the notion of information as a human right. "This is continuous and never stops. We have to defend those rights every day. But it will only happen if a society wants this and supports this. It's all vital for developing a civilised society but it needs to be treated with great care and defended every day."
Eroded editorial independence, control of media by groups wishing to overthrow governments, and the spread of information that is not impartial were weapons that could be turned against the people. The internet was today the strongest force for democracy. However, a democratic and pluralist society cannot depend on blogs and social media alone, since not everything found on the internet is true. Media are needed that serve the public by verifying information and adding context. In 2012, the EBU created a set of values of universality, diversity, independence and accountability that were unanimously adopted by its members.
Preetam Maloor, strategy and policy advisor, corporate strategy division, of the International Telecommunications Union, said Information and Communication Technologies were not only channels for communication but opened the door to an enormous, variable and easily accessible source of information and opportunities for all.
However, although the number of Internet users kept growing, with two thirds from the developing world, the internet was still far from ubiquitous. More than 4.4 billion people were offline and even those online did not always have access to the same opportunities. In many places, broadband was too expensive, and social media, apps and e-commerce platforms were not available. Services were not offered in the local language, he said.
World Association for Christian Communication board of directors' member Marianne Ejdersten said WACC's key concerns included media diversity, equal and affordable access to communication and media and gender justice. Broadcasters had to work much harder for a just world, one that included more gender-based productions. "But we can do that together. We can try to connect different organisations and companies to strengthen the role of women and men in this," she said.
During the discussion, Globethics.net and WACC launched "More or Less Equal: How Digital Platforms Can Help Advance Communication Rights", a critical look at the challenges widespread internet use poses for societies worldwide.
Kenneth Mtata, study secretary for Lutheran Theology and Practice at the Lutheran World Federation drew parallels with his son, who is about to turn 10 and is already overwhelmed by the information confronting him. "The extreme production of information results in him developing patterns of consumption. Certain things on TV and the internet interest him and he has a growing appetite for celebrity and gossip." As a parent, he finds himself facing ethical dilemmas. Should the family turn the television off when an image of a naked man lying on a bed suffering from Ebola is shown or let their son experience the reality of the world?
People in the global south were increasingly watching and hearing content produced in other parts of the world but he warned that access to information could only be a right when information was contextualised and allowed local people to use it for economic empowerment. "We must commend Globethics.net. Not only for making sure there is an increase in open access but also that other parts of the world produce information and access it."
Related Globethics.net Publication
More or Less Equal.
How Digital Platforms Can Help
Advance Communication Rights (2014)
Editors: Philip Lee / Dafne Sabanes Plou
Globethics.net Global 9
"Today's digital platforms offer the tantalizing possibility of learning and taking into account opinions from the margins that contradict the dominant voices in the public sphere. The concept of citizen journalism has radically altered traditional news and information flows, encouraging greater interaction and interdependence. What challenges does this development pose for societies worldwide? What ethical questions does it raise? This booklet explores these questions against a background of rapid technological change and with the aim of strengthening the communication rights of all people everywhere."
The 10th Anniversary in details
10th Anniversary Page: access all related 10th anniversary information
10th Anniversary Programme of the day [PDF - 1 page - 32 Kb]
10th Anniversary brochure: a journey with people with values [PDF - 16 pages - 1.62 Mb]