Why the Risk of Information Isolationism Leads to a Less Free Press

By: Brad Buchanan | bbuchanan@newzgroup.com

Two major forces are increasing the globalization of the world – the Internet, which enables instantaneous worldwide communications, and international economic systems which interconnect business supply chains and monetary exchanges. In spite of nationalistic movements in some countries, the trend toward globalization seems inexorable.

Increased global interaction leads to increased interdependence. Rather than moving toward collective governance, however, the primary method of dealing with worldwide interdependence has been piecemeal, with more negotiations, more summits, more bilateral agreements. Common sense might tell us that global problems require global solutions.

Anyone who is interested in solving the problems of our planet should be an advocate of the free press. Information inspires action. Events from the other side of the world often seem to have no relevance to US affairs. Americans can be myopically focused on happenings in our own country, neglecting seemingly minor events taking place elsewhere. But with increasing globalization, the subtle inter-relationships of distant occurrences with our own circumstances may be overlooked or under-rated.

Over the last few years, the government in Myanmar has been engaged in genocidal atrocities against the Rohingya tribe, a Muslim minority that has been living in that country for hundreds of years. With over 10,000 deaths and another 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to nearby Bangladesh, the actions of the Myanmar government are certainly newsworthy. This information is vital to the proper functioning of a global community.

In August of 2017, two Reuters journalists reporting from the village of Inn Din documented the executions of ten men, with photographs of the victims kneeling before a mass grave. The reporters, Wa Lone and Kway Soe Oo, were subsequently arrested and in September 2018, were sentenced to seven years in prison under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Human rights activists, Western governments and press organizations have protested the harsh sentences. Brad J. Adler, president of Reuters, called the decision an “injustice…[based on] false charges designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press.” Their only crime was acting as honorable journalists under the auspices of a free press.

In the emerging global society, one of the great challenges of the 21st century is the creation of press freedom worldwide, using the American model as the gold standard. When we hear about journalists like Wa Lone and Kway Soe Oo being jailed, it is easy to condemn such travesties as foreign human rights violations. But this misses the point of globalization and an international free press. The curtailment of their rights as journalists threaten our ability to gather and disseminate the news. Without them, and reporters like them, how would we know about the genocide in Myanmar?

The need for global freedom of the press can hardly be understated. Government suppression of news reporting limits the information we have available to examine problems and formulate possible solutions. With all the talk of nationalistic isolationism in the world today, information isolationism may be the most dangerous of all.

A prerequisite for finding answers to worldwide problems is accurate, robust, complete information; in other words, a global free press, uninhibited by government censorship or editorial tinkering by multinational media corporations. Now, more than ever, there is a need for independent organizations to monitor, collect, coalesce, analyze and distribute geographically dispersed information to international decision makers.

As a news monitoring company, Newz Group is doing its part to build a collaborative information infrastructure to foster a worldwide free press. For example, our Client Portal offers an analytics dashboard that provides visual representations and sentiment of coverage in local media. This means deeper insights into what is being said on the hyperlocal media level, the kind of media monitoring few, if any, are currently offering. Check it out and let us know if we can help you find you!