Analyzing How Different Media In Different Countries Report Parliament And Politics Essay Examples
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Assessing the various ways by which parliamentary affairs and politics are reported by the media is gaining prominence owing to a rising demand for freedom of speech and safeguarding the privacy of concerned parties at the same time. Politics and parliament are sensitive issues that require careful reporting as it runs risk of libel and defamation. Prominent names are involved in political cases, while reporting of court proceedings pertaining to cases of rape, murder, conviction etc. requires accurate data and quotes. Any misinterpretation can lead to severe outrage both from the public and concerned parties. Different countries have several restrictions imposed for reporting these cases. I identify those practices and norms in this paper.
The Western countries accept the public’s constitutional right to information and that the media plays an important role as liaison between the parliament and public. But, Asian countries and the Middle East follow extreme censorship in political and parliamentary reportage. Free opinion and content diversity is a distant dream with Freedom of the Press remaining oblivion. Pro-government stances are highly encouraged, while any deviation from stated restrictions results in imprisonment and fines.
Reporting of parliament and political issues in Great Britain
According to Leigh (2009), during the 18th century, reporting of parliamentary affairs became debatable with MP and journalist John Wilkes’s tremendous efforts to keep the public informed was ultimately catapulted into a constitutional right. Gradually, it was accepted that the public had the right to know about decisions of their elected representatives. Free speech was finally established in Great Britain under the 1688 Bill of Rights. But, in a recent ruling, The Guardian was prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds. The Guardian was denied the right in the Trafigura case to identify the MP and his questions or the answers that a minister had. This included unidentified legal obstacles involving unmentionable proceedings and an anonymous client. The sole fact that was allowed to be reported by The Guardian is that the case involved London solicitors Carter-Ruck. Editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, was quoted by the media stating his concern about the media laws placing newspapers in a Kafkaesque world, in which the media is gagged and public remains ignorant about information that has been suppressed and the proceedings that gag it (as cited in Leigh, 2009).
Super-injunctions are often imposed upon media houses that prevent news organizations from identifying those involved in legal disputes or even stating that reporting restrictions have emerged in Britain. These restrictions developed out of family disputes that safeguarded the right to privacy under the 1998 Human Rights Act. The law emerged owing to a series of high court rulings and was brought into prominence by Formula One chief Max Mosley, who won damages from the defunct newspaper The News of the World. The newspaper was charged for revealing Mosley’s sex life. This privacy law offers relief against tabloid journalism and has increased the use of injunctions manifold (as cited in Robinson, 2009).
According to the House of Commons (2012), the UK and Europe mainly base its parliamentary reporting on the Parliamentary Papers Act, 1840 and Defamation Act, 1996. A certificate from the Speaker or clerk from either House of the Parliament must consent to such reporting whether in criminal or civil cases. The Parliamentary Papers Act offers protection and a qualified privilege to publishers who print an extract or abstract of a report, votes or proceedings without any malicious intent. The Defamation Act, 1996 also offers protection to publishers that publish fair and accurate report of proceedings (as cited in House of Commons, 2012).
According to Ross (2012), under the Contempt of Court Act (1981), activities such as publishing or filming jury deliberations are considered to be contempt. Even anticipating or predicting the course of trial is considered contempt. But, owing to the dominance of the social media and internet, what amounts to contempt is debatable. Owing to digitization, courts in Scotland allows for using devices to provide live text-based statements from the court. Tweets from a Scottish court were introduced during the sentencing of former MSP Tommy Sheridan in 2011. Journalists were permitted to send tweets during the hearing at the High Court in Glasgow. Trial judge Lord Bracadale allowed these changes in the court. Television cameras were permitted inside the High Court in April 2012. The sentencing of David Gilroy convicted of murder charges were recorded and was later broadcast by the Scottish television. The footages mainly focused on Judge Lord Bracadale handing down the sentence. The trial judge decides whether filming and telecast of court proceedings should be allowed. Such permission is given considering that it would not pose any risk towards the administration of justice. Recording during criminal trials are rare and are limited to high profile cases. The appeal of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, then allegedly involved in the Lockerbie bombing was televised in 2002. In an exception to these cases, Lord Ross allowed the BBC to film a news programme during the sentencing of two armed robbers in 1996 (as cited in Ross, 2012).
The situation is worse in staunch Muslim Sultanates where the media is totally ignorant of a free press that thrives in Western countries. Political satire doesn’t exist and political blogs are carefully scrutinized by the government. Any repulsive comment or reports about the ruling government leads to arrest.
Reporting of politics in Asia
Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam
The absolute monarchy of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah impose total restriction on reporting of anything arbitrary or negative against the government or the Royal family. There are no elections in Brunei with the National Democratic Party and National United Party refrained from holding any electoral process. So, all that the press does is to speak good about the political affiliations of the government. Any misleading political reporting draws imprisonment of journalists for up to three years for publication of “false and malicious” news. Post the 2005 Sedition Act, the state of the media in Brunei worsened through expansion of the list of punishable offences that include criticism of the Sultan or the national Malay Islamic Monarchy ideology that identifies monarchial rule as the sole acceptable form of governance. Sedition charges follow fines of up to BN$5,000. Even the social media failed to transform the state of political reporting in Brunei. The primary internet service provider is state owned and gives the government absolute amount of control over the content. Often private e-mails are also subject to scrutiny (as cited in Freedom House, 2013).
Reporting of politics and parliament in India often leaves one bewildered. Probably, it is in the middle of strict government restrictions and the delight of a democracy. The media widely exposes corrupt political leaders and doesn’t refrain from showing leading political figures dozing in the Parliament. But, every media outlet is backed by political parties that vent out their frustrations about opposing parties through media outlets. Often, reporters face suspension or funding and advertising to media houses is withdrawn. The public has the liberty to discuss any political aspect on social media unless it is defamatory against any leading political personality. Criticizing politics is no big deal for the Indian media and jokes about ministers are rampant on social media. Cartoonists have a great role and they are key figures in depicting the loopholes of Indian politics. But, involving the national anthem or the emblem can lead to arrest. According to the BBC (2012), Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on sedition charges owing to his artistic depiction of corrupt politics in India. Trivedi was accused of creating cartoons that lampooned politicians. In Trivedi’s cartoons, the customary three lions in the national emblem of India were replaced with three wolves with blood dripping from their teeth and a message underneath, "Long live corruption". Government officials defend the arrest of Trivedi saying that though the Indian government appreciates free speech but, insult to national symbols won’t be tolerated. Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India (former Supreme Court judge) stated that the arrest was an illegal act and that a wrongful arrest is a serious crime under the Indian Penal Code. It can’t be permitted in a democracy (as cited in BBC, 2012).
Reporting of parliament and politics in rest of the world
The social media has transformed the way politics was previously reported in the Middle East. From a highly suppressed media, it modified into a strong social media platform comprising the Arab citizens, and even managed to topple the government. The Hosni Mubarak government collapsed owing to a Facebook or Twitter revolution. Prior to Mubarak’s resignation, videos on demonstrations went viral on the internet and overhauled the state of political reporting in Egypt. It also led to the rise of uncensored political blogs (as cited in Donnell, 2011).
Media coverage of the Ottawa shooting outside the Canadian parliament was subject to several scrutinies about how the USA and Canada reported a political crisis. The American media was accused of unnecessary speculation while the CBC was praised for tactful presentation of political facts (as cited in Wilstein, 2014).
There are drastic variations in reporting of court proceedings and politics within Europe. In the UK, the media was restricted from reporting the legal proceedings against a retired Bristol schoolteacher Christopher Jefferies. This ensures that suspects get an impartial trial in front of a jury that is not influenced by prior publicity. On the other hand, the French media coverage of the sexual assault charge against politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn was allowed to be published with graphic detail prior to any trial. US courts may permit reporting of court proceedings even after charging a defendant. Often, the risk lies in lawyers’ free speech outside the courtroom that instigates “stimulating trial by media” (as cited in Bowcott, 2011).
After a thorough research about how issues of parliament and politics are reported by the media in different countries, it can be stated that democracies stands a better chance in seamless reporting from the court or parliament. Permitting live broadcast or tweets still remain a big deal in several countries except in the West and other democracies. The dramatic rise of the social media has transformed reporting of politics. Citizen journalism including blogging forms an important aspect of how political reporting is taking shape in democracies. It identifies the citizens’ constitutional right to information. But, in authoritarian regimes, a free press is impossible to trace and political sarcasm is strictly prohibited. In these countries, the media functions as a goodwill ambassador of the government.
Bowcott, O. (2011, July 5). Contempt of court rules are designed to avoid trial by media. The
Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/jul/05/contempt-court-rules-trial-media
BBC. (2012, September 10). India cartoonist Aseem Trivedi's arrest sparks outrage. Retrieved
Donnell, C. (2011, September 12). “New study quantifies use of social media in Arab Spring.”
Freedom House. (2013). Brunei: Freedom of the Press. Retrieved from: https://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2013/brunei#.VLo9x0eUefg.
House of Commons. (2012, April). Parliamentary Privilege. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/79390/consultation.pdf .
Leigh, D. (2009, October 12). Guardian gagged from reporting parliament. The Guardian.
Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/oct/12/guardian-gagged-from-reporting-parliament.
Ross, G. (2012, August 12). Role of the Media in Criminal Trials. Scottish Parliament.
Retrieved from: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/S4/SB_12-50.pdf
Robinson, J. (2009, October 13). How super-injunctions are used to gag investigative reporting.
The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/13/super-injunctions-guardian-carter-ruck.
Wilstein, M. (2014, October 22). CBC Anchor Exemplifies Difference Between Canadian and
American Breaking News. Retrieved from: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cbc-anchor-exemplifies-difference-between-canadian-and-american-breaking-news/
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