Why we do this, part #134

April 20, 2004

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who says there’s never been a famine in a country with a free press, describes the connections between a free press and a just society.

The first – and perhaps the most elementary – connection concerns the direct contribution of free speech in general and of press freedom in particular to the quality of our lives. We have reason enough to want to communicate with each other and to understand better the world in which we live. Press freedom is critically important for our capability to do this. The absence of a free press and the suppression of people?s ability to communicate with each other have the effect of directly reducing the quality of human life, even if the authoritarian country that imposes such suppression happens to be very rich in terms of gross national product (GNP).

Second, in addition to the direct contribution of press freedom to the quality of human life, it also has an important protective function in giving voice to the neglected and the disadvantaged, which can greatly contribute to human security. The rulers of a country are often insulated, in their own lives, from the misery of common people. They can live through a national calamity, such as a famine or some other disaster, without sharing the fate of the victims. If, however, they have to face public criticism in the media and to confront elections with an uncensored press, the rulers have to pay a price too, and this gives them a strong incentive to take timely action to avert such crises.

Link via editorsweblog.

By the way: May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

One Response to Why we do this, part #134

  1. KP on April 20, 2004 at 10:19 pm