WSIS, press freedom, and diversity of
Information and communications technology (ICT) is not an end in itself, but a means of supplying information and content. The Information Society can thrive only if citizens are provided with full information to allow democratic participation by all.
The media have a responsibility to produce, gather and distribute diverse quality content to meet these needs. Governments have a responsibility to ensure freedom of expression and healthy debate, and support open and informative media.
The World Summit on the Information Society has engaged the media as indispensable key participants and “stakeholders” of the Information Society. Among other things:
- The Summit stresses the role of press freedom in the context of democracy and good governance.
- The Summit helps promote the creation of domestic content, in line with local culture and language. The digital divide is not only a technological issue, but also one of content – today, more than the 69% of the websites are in English. Both the free flow of information and cultural diversity as well as pluralism are essential to an inclusive Information Society. The two concepts — press freedom and diversity of content — can and need to go together.
- New models may create and distribute local content, such as ‘social licensing’ and ‘open source’. Steps will involve establishing innovative conditions for developing digital content and local multimedia industries, including intellectual property rights; and promoting tools for the management of local languages as a means to promote multilingualism.
- In developing countries, ICTs and the media are tools for alleviating poverty and promoting development. The media can be mobilized to transmit electronic messages that convey information useful for development — such as messages on health and HIV-AIDS, education, entrepreneurship, environment and agriculture.
- New digital technology offers great possibilities for enhancing ‘traditional media’ and combining them with new media. Traditional media, especially radio and television, are effective tools for promoting development, and remain the sole form of access to information for much of the world's population, including the very poor and the illiterate.
Freedom of the press entails certain responsibilities. As new technologies allow unprecedented freedom to the ‘new media’ on the Internet, these should not be used to foster intolerance and hatred nor incite the exploitation of vulnerable sections, especially children. Instead, the values of tolerance, dialogue and respect for diversity must be the foundations of a truly inclusive global information society. The Information Society should bring the world together instead of adding new divisions, creating a more just and harmonious global environment.
Under ‘Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society’, the Action Plan adopted by WSIS Geneva states, “All actors in the Information Society should promote the common good, protect privacy and personal data and take appropriate actions and preventive measures, as determined by law, against abusive uses of ICTs such as illegal and other acts motivated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, hatred, violence, all forms of child abuse, including paedophilia and child pornography, and trafficking in, and exploitation of, human beings.”