Yesterday, The Emerson College Journalism Department hosted a conference in order to inform its Journalism students about international freedom of press. The guest speakers where four Fulbright graduate students from countries such as: Indonesia, Russia and Ukraine. They discussed how in their countries freedom of press is a very symbolic thing, since most big news networks are privately owned. These are owned mostly by people who are directly associated with the government, and the news they receive are tailored to benefit the interests of the aforementioned owners.
This is especially problematic in Indonesia, where there are strong censorship laws and the media is largely utilized for government propaganda. The Indonesian student who was speaking at the conference said that journalists are scared to defy news censorship since in Indonesia there is a long history of violence against Journalists and they don’t have an organization to go to, since the local press council is run by the government so it’s hard to escape the authoritarian regime.
Regarding freedom of press in Russia, Olga and Yuliya the two Russian students who spoke at the conference explained that there is a huge paradox in Russian journalism. The reason why the journalistic situation is so complex in this country is because it is too big and centered around the capital. Although everyone knows what is happening in Moscow, people in the capital and the rest of the world aren’t aware of the rest of Russian news. Even thought there are over 330 television channels in the country, most Russians only have access to the 17 government sponsored ones. These are owned by oil tycoons and the Russian elite and whatever is broadcast in these channels is dictated by what the owners of the channels want to show on them.
By international standards, both Russia and Ukraine have partial freedom of press. However Ukrainian student Vitalii Moros says that in his country freedom of press is progressively getting worse, since most media outlets are owned by the country’s elite who utilize the news to protect their personal interests. Since in Ukraine the elite is linked to the government, this makes most tv channels pro government and utilized for propaganda as well. This conference taught us that America is the leader in freedom of press, but as Moros said: “America’s version of censorship is called ratings.”