Philosophy / Politics / Technology

The role of the media in times of crisis

Firstly who is the media?

At face value this is a simple question, but it isn’t. A radio station is immediately labelled as ‘media’ but what about a blogger working from home? A few months back the Maltese Government published a bill of law entitled the ‘Media & Defamation Act‘. The Bill provided a wide interpretation of ‘media’ essentially including any one who broadcasts, maintains a ‘publication’ which is made available to the public and any other web-based news service. 

Thus a media entity should be widely construed. In my view it must pass a two-part litmus test; (A) it is a publication which is broadcast and publicly available, and (B) is published a person/organisation whose income/livelihood is mainly derived from such publication. 

The impact of media

Other than the obvious economic function, media has an important social function. By making views of one part of a country known to others, the media becomes a broker of  nation-wide dialogue on matters of policy. Media can help weld together our community into a nation with a shared cultural identity.

Therefore even in terms of straight-forward economic development, for such advancement to be just and sustainable, citizens must productively participate in the decisions that shape their lives. Participation requires an informed citizenry and that’s where the media’s role becomes vital.

From the standpoint of economic theory, economic actors require accurate data to allocate resources efficiently. Investors and other groups increasingly value the governance-monitoring role that the media offers. Media can provide information and monitoring on economic policy development leading to wider debate and optimised economic policies. In turn this reduces political risk and increases good governance—conditions that are important for robust economic development. 

The role of the media during times of crisis

The role of the media in Malta

Media during the COVID-19 pandemic

Our media has never been more required than in times like these. In times of crisis and grave uncertainty, the public turns to sources they can trust — sources that strive at all times to report the news accurately and fairly, with sharp analysis and the kind of insight you cannot get anywhere else.

This role is not unlike the fundamental role media plays in a vibrant democracy. Media is indeed essential to the health of a democracy for at least two reasons:

  1. First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. 
  2. Second, it serves a “checking function” by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them

There is a robust link between media development and government responsiveness. Therefore a country, despite its wealth, can’t function without independent media. The press must tell truth to power and must be supported to do so.

Below is a short interview with (in Maltese) about the subject.

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