Role of Media and Good Governance

Nazli Zakaria, Indonesia

Good governance entails the principles of transparency, accountability and participation. Within this context, the state (read: government) is in a key position but should not dominate. The really important players include institutions and non-governmental organizations. The news media is one of the players. It is possible for it to position itself as a driver for good governance.

Media as an important source of public information could be expected to be a vehicle to encourage the promotion of the principles of good governance. Via the media, facts, events and viewpoints can be presented as information to the public.

The mass media must be able to perform the function to criticize, discuss and suggest on matters of public concern, for example on the issue of corruption at various levels of government. Media coverage should strive to give an accurate, independent and critical account of a news story. This will have the effect of promoting transparency, which is one of the principles of good governance. There is no doubt that the media can contribute significantly to good governance reform.

Unfortunately, a great part of the media is not fully independent, and is subject to the influences of particular interests (example: ownership). In this case, the news presented is no longer objective. Worse, it can be used as a tool, or even a justification for a particular argument. This is what can cause misunderstandings in the community.

The media not only can act as a conduit for information dissemination, but sometimes can provoke and sway public opinion. When this happens, it may become a stumbling block to the democratic process.

The media and the public are not the only players as the society moves towards good governance reform. It takes a good response from the government. In accordance with the principle of transparency, the government should provide to the media broad access to information on public policy matters. Access is of course not limited to permission to cover events and governmental activities. More than that, the government should guarantee press freedom in the true sense through a clear legal umbrella.

As long as there is no clear legal umbrella, freedom of the press will not be guaranteed. And as long as there is no freedom of the press, access will be a problem, and good governance will remain a democratic living dream.

Access to information, freedom of the press, and an umbrella legal instrument will together support the processes of democracy and good governance.

Ms Nazli Zakaria works as a reporter for Pt Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI)