GLOBAL JOURNALIST: Separating propaganda from the press

Friday, April 15, 2011 | 1:49 p.m. CDT

The conflict between governments that grasp for control over their citizens and media outletsthat attempt to report the truth has emerged as a prevalent theme in world news in recent months.

In the Middle East, for example, newspapers that were once government rags are now making an about face, publishing stories against the former regimes that controlled them. In other countries, such as Syria, where turmoil still rages, press freedom is still uncertain.

In South America, worries that leaders will enact media laws that prevent the press from portraying governments negatively is a growing concern among nonstate-controlled media outlets. The influence of leaders such as President Hugo Chavez is increasing those fears. The Venezuelan leader has enacted restrictive media laws and even has his own television show that can interrupt another broadcast at any time.

In democratic Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns nearly half of the country's broadcast outlets. Critics fear that this government ownership could limit diversity of perspectives. Most Europeans traditionally tune in to the tube more than to any other medium.

In China, during the Sichuan earthquake and the 2008 Summer Olympics, officials were more open to allowing press coverage than in previous years. But with the recent economic downturn, China's relationship with the press is once again strained in a nation that cares deeply about how foreign ideas, especially those in the media, influence its citizens.

On this week’s broadcast, reporters and editors from Italy, China, Ecuador and Israel discuss media outlets’ struggles to offer citizens accurate, balanced and unbiased reporting in countries with varying degrees of press freedom.

Watch this week's show.

Highlights from this week's guests:

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Gabriela Vivanco, Editorial Vice President, Diario La Hora, Ecuador

"What we see in Mexico is what we saw in Colombia in the 1980s — there is so much corruption in the government that the government itself is unable to protect journalists and protect the media from the violence that goes on with organized crime. You have the same consequence in all of these countries that follow Chavez: Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina and other small countries."

Perugia, Italy: Barbara Trionfi, Press Freedom Adviser, International Press Institute (IPI)

"This concentration of economic media and political power in the hands of one single person (Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) in Italy has generated a situation, according to IPI's opinion, that is heavily affecting pluralism of information in the country."

Tel Aviv, Israel: Oren Kessler, Middle Eastern affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post

"For years, Al Ahram was the mouthpiece of the Mubarak regime. Until President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, (the newspaper) was just really trumpeting the government line. A day after Mubarak left Cairo, they ran the lead headline that people had brought down the regime."

In studio: Yue Xi, MU graduate student, former Beijing AP bureau news assistant

"In January, President Hu Jintao held a central political bureau meeting. In the meeting he gave a speech and said we need to regulate the Internet. That was his message, loud and clear."

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