More media respect for dissenters

Even in democratic countries like the US or Poland, journalists are increasingly facing harassment. This is due, in particular, to the narrowing of public discourse, to which the media themselves are involved, says Ines Paul in the pages of DW.

Numbers do not leave any illusions: more and more journalists are faced with infringements, restrictions in professional activity, and in the worst case they are threatened, thrown behind bars and killed. Despite all the efforts of the international community, the governments of countries such as Egypt or Burundi are increasingly countering the work of journalists.
The situation of journalists and media in Turkey as a result of an unprecedented wave of repression after the attempted coup of last summer deteriorated significantly. More than 150 journalists are behind bars, among them the German-Turkish author Deniz Yudzhel. In crisis-ridden or war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen, journalists invariably face deadly threats from all sides of the conflict. The more important is the work of international media, which work in many languages, whose task, not least, is providing independent information to the regions in which censorship is widespread.

Hostile media rhetoric

However, one more tendency makes the alarm sound. After all, the last report of the “Reporters Without Borders” proves that even in democratic countries press freedom undergoes considerable oppression. The hostile media rhetoric of politicians in countries such as the US or Poland seems to already refer to a “good tone.” It paves the way for restrictive laws that expand the powers of intelligence agencies on shadowing or jeopardize people who provide accusatory and socially important information to journalists.
A long way ahead is Donald Trump, who managed for several months during his election campaign To discredit the work of serious media. And which, spreading through Twitter and unverified information, at any time of the day or night receives a million audience. And often the new US president spreads the usual lies, regularly accusing the serious media of deliberate misinformation. Especially when these media critically cover his person or policy.

And this is well perceived, not only by Trump supporters. After all, even those who criticize the US president agree that the press has long been not free but controlled by big money, or has noticed – and, accordingly, covers only a small part of the reality of ordinary citizens.
Loss of trust All this is not limited to the United States alone.
In countries such as Poland, France, the Netherlands and Germany, the society’s evaluation of professional journalism is also lower than ever. And thanks to new opportunities in the network, there is a trend that is likely to pose the greatest threat to press freedom: a loss of confidence.
After all, if professional journalists who adhere to ethical principles are no longer trusted, it will be easy for people with very specific interests to take control of public discourse in social networks. Whether it’s purposeful misinformation, the spread of conspiracy theories or Internet hunts of individuals who often do not stand it. This can not resist the traditional news formats, because their importance in public discussion is steadily decreasing.

Great danger for democracy

For democracy this is very dangerous. It is very difficult to counteract this. But in reality we journalists are responsible for such development. The claim to exceptional possession of the truth, we simplified the case for people like Donald Trump.
Serious media will be able to restore their positions in the eyes of the audience only if they manage to listen seriously to everyone, especially those who think differently, who doubt who is worried that he is not Perceive, and therefore turns to the populists, who offer illusions of simple answers. Journalists should classify information, but not take on the role of a moral mentor, which determines where the good is, and where evil. At least in Germany, we have a legal system that very well defines what can be said and what can not be done.