Do people actually want media freedom and open government?

7 Sep

In campaigning for media access to government papers on St Helena – crucially, agendas of meetings, which are blocked – I’m assuming that British-style democracy is what people want on St Helena.

It may not be a good assumption. My latest post in the St Helena Freedom of Information campaign ends by asking site users whether they actually prefer to trust councillors and officials to act in their own best interest.

In my podcast on slavery, a prominent expatriate Saint says St Helenians have grown up in a colonial system, assuming that what their colonial masters did was “for their best.”

And now, in an academic paper on journalism in Papua New Guinea, an unnamed journalist is quoted as saying that “absolute democracy is un-Melanesian”.

It seems unthinkable to me; but actually, democracy isn’t the only way to run a country. The trouble is that St Helenians have been kept in the dark for so long that many are not politically engaged, so it is easy for people to claim there is no interest in, or demand for, open government and media freedom.

Media, Information and Development in Papua New Guinea Evangelina Papoutsaki and Dick Rooney (Eds) 2006, DWU Press, Madang. Available from: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Media,+Information+and+Development+in+Papua+New+Guinea.-a0179779878

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