Wednesday, May 22, 2024

MEDIA SILENCE AS A TREND

Written by: Xhelal Neziri

Most dictators have come to power through democracy. From Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pinochet, Tito, Hoxha, Ceausescu, Zhelev… to Putin, Lukashenko or the dictators of the African continent, democracy has been used only as a means to reach the final goal. So, like a bus that will take them from the station of democracy to that of dictatorship.

Democracy is hard to cultivate. It requires participation, debate, different opinion, choice and close observation of every person who undertakes to serve the general interest, or that of the state. Democracy means power in the hands of the people. To simplify the decision-making procedure, the people vote their representatives, authorizing them to make decisions on their behalf. Vesting people elected by the people with power often causes another unwanted side effect: corruption. To prevent this disease, three things are needed: effective investigative institutions, an independent judicial system and a free media. In this mosaic, the free media play an important role in the protection of democratic values as they are uncompromising observers of the work of all institutions, which directly and indirectly result from the will of the people expressed in direct elections. But the media can be misused by leaders with dictatorial ambitions to reach their last stop. Hitler did this through his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, or even Putin today with the media sponsored and controlled by him.

Even today, on International Press Freedom Day, the media continues to be the main factor in determining the level of democracy in a country. The Western Balkans do not look good in the latest Reporters Without Borders report. Apart from North Macedonia (36), which has increased by two places compared to last year, the other countries of the Western Balkans have regressed in the sphere of media freedom. Kosovo (75), for example, has a drop of 19 places, while Albania (99) – by three places. Albania is in an even more unfavorable position than Serbia, which is ranked 98th, with a drop of seven places. Bosnia and Herzegovina is positioned 81st, with a regression of 16 places.

If the freedom of the media is narrowed, then this is the first symptom that a society is infected by the virus of dictatorship. The first phase of the disease, i.e. incubation, appears in the form of autocracy, which then continues to move rapidly towards dictatorship. If the freedom of the media falls, then the installation of fear of the authority of the power holders begins. Fear produces the silence that enables the taking of power from the people and its concentration in the hands of a person or political entity. If this point is reached, then we can no longer talk about democracy. Elections are turned into a farce, just to justify absolute power, while the will of the people becomes completely irrelevant. At this point today is Russia, which in the last presidential elections, not only did not guarantee fair competition conditions for all contenders, but also prevented the candidacy of the real opponents of the current president, Vladimir Putin, who won with close to 90 percent of the vote. votes.

Today’s map of Reporters without Borders regarding the freedom of the press shows that Russia and the countries of the East are far from democratic values. Run by autocrats and dictators, these countries are synonymous with oppression, uncertainty and darkness. On the other hand, we have the Scandinavian countries that are at the top of the media freedom list. Denmark is taken as a model of the successful implementation of democracy, where media freedom is inviolable, corruption is almost non-existent and the country’s development is stable. In his work “Political Order and Political Decay”, Francis Fukuyama calls Denmark an ideal democratic country and asks for answers on how non-democratic countries can be oriented towards this model.

However, apart from media freedom, the quality of democracy is also determined by the quality of education. “Democracy is only as good as the education that surrounds it”, said Socrates of ancient Greece, which is considered the cradle of democracy. Meanwhile, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) says it more clearly: “Democracy cannot succeed if those who vote are not prepared to choose wisely. The real defense of democracy is education”. In a world where everything goes online, when the media is increasingly used as a weapon in hybrid wars rather than as a means of information, reforms that improve the quality of education are now imperative. Media literacy, but also democratic education, is only a segment of a more comprehensive reform, which will make education the defender of media freedom, and thus of democracy as a system of governance.

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