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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Global Media A Means To Freedom

Steven Lee |
March 3, 2014 | 5:50 p.m. PST


The value of our free press lies in what we do with it. (ryanjreilly, Creative Commons)
The value of our free press lies in what we do with it. (ryanjreilly, Creative Commons)
Here we are in the land of the free. We have been given the unalienable right to freedom of speech and the press. Okay, well maybe not entirely, especially with the NSA monitoring our actions. But how many times has the NSA come barreling through your door, accusing you of endangering national security because of your Facebook post or tweet?

In our day-to-day life, we have a pretty large range of freedom of speech and the press, but the value of these rights comes from what we do with this freedom.

Do we work to further democracy and keep the government accountable like Edward Snowden, an ex-CIA agent who gave up his well-paid job and comfortable life to expose the NSA, or do we spend all of our time posting hateful comments and taking Buzzfeed quizzes?

Don’t get me wrong: those Buzzfeed quizzes help me get through midterm season with at least some of my sanity intact - but I think we can do more. 

On Thursday, The Huffington Post annouced a new partnership with the Hankyoreh Media Group, making South Korea the 11th country added to its list of international partners. Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington praises The Hankyoreh’s dedication to spreading truth and combating politically-biased journalism. 

In fact, the Hankyoreh Media Group was founded by journalists who were purged by government for refusing to succumb to state control. The publication is a testament to how words can powerfully influence society by not only raising awareness but by creating an opportunity for ideas to take shape through discussion and dialog. 

The Hankyoreh is also known for addressing social concern present within Korean society. One such example is the sharp increase in the suicide rate, which more than tripled in Korea from 1992 to 2001. The publication hopes to bring up conversations revolving around stress and fear of failure in order to reduce the estimated 40-43 suicides per day. The Hankyoreh focuses on providing an avenue for often taboo ideas to be discussed, in hopes of addressing societal ills.

Too often, we as Americans, myself included, forget that our ability to post whatever we like holds huge importance and impact. I think we should all learn from The Hankyoreh and use our freedoms to help rather than to hate.

For example, I often see both religious people and those without religion bashing the other side as if they were enemies, foreign parties engaged in a war of words. We often forget that in other countries, to simply mention a certain religion could warrant death. Rana Tanaveer, a journalist in Pakistan received death threats for allegedly speaking against Islam and in favor of Christianity. Tanaveer identifies himself as a Muslim and states he was simply stating facts about Christianity in accordance with his profession as a journalist. 

Another example is Cüneyt Özdemir, a Turkish journalist who was threatened because he was not supporting the government enough. Özdemir was neutral in an issue concerning the government, but that was not enough. The Turkish government demanded that Özdemir praise the government’s actions or face possible consequences.

Of course, I am not saying that every Facebook user should maintain the same standard as Tanaveer or Özdemir, but rather that we should recognize our freedoms. Next time someone posts something that goes against whatever beliefs you have, I ask that you use your freedom of speech wisely. Sure you have every right to bash them and try to prove them wrong, but in all honesty that isn’t really helping anyone.  

Rather you could approach them in an open-minded manner in hopes of both gaining and giving knowledge. This would create a discussion about the topic at hand that could resolve conflicts even before it starts. And if the person's post really is harmful, offensive or even overly insensetive you can still try to correct them respectfully. Most importantly, however, you should maintain your awareness that even though someone may slander you as a ignorant, bigoted or in Tanaveer's case an "apostate," that person retains certain freedoms. Sometimes the best response is to walk away, or in this case, just unfollow them. 

I am not implying that we should all be social activists and post only wholesome or socially inspiring posts, but rather that we should recognize the power of the freedom we have. Journalists abroad must fight for their right to publish their ideas, often which are silenced or censored by their government and thus hardly seen. Here in America, a majority of us are not even considered journalists but we have a larger network of followers on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, and have the ability to post whatever belief we have without fear of harm. 

Maybe we all cannot be like The Hankyoreh and use our public media to help social welfare, but we can definitely understand the impact our words can have. Maybe we could help reduce depression, fight for human equality or even change the world if we only appreciated the degree of liberty given to us.

I for one applaud The Huffington Post and The Hankyoreh in their efforts to utilize media as a venue for democracy. For, as Thomas Jefferson said:

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”


Reach Contributor Steven Lee here.



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