Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt cites Amartya Sen’s work to plug media freedom


London, May 2: Stating that media freedom is neither a western value nor a colonial imposition, Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to push for more media freedom, insisting that curbing journalists does not make problems go away.
Speaking at a UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event, Hunt said media freedom is a force for progress from which everyone benefits. Sen’s research into famine prevention and democracy privileges the role played by the news media.
Hunt said: “Today, my argument is simple: media freedom is not a ‘Western’ value, still less a colonial-style imposition, but instead a force for progress from which everyone benefits. The Indian Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, defined the ‘expansion of freedom’ as what he called the ‘pre-eminent objective’ of development”.
“Far from being in tension, he showed that freedom and development were one and the same, and a flourishing media should be seen as part of the broader progress of a nation,” he added at the event hosted by the African Union in Addis Ababa.
Announcing UK government initiatives on media freedom, Hunt said when everyone is able to exchange ideas freely, a society benefits not just from the brains of the people at the top, but from the originality and creativity of the entire population.
“That’s why half of the ten most inventive countries, as ranked by the Global Innovation Index, are also in the top 10 for media freedom. That’s also why, however fashionable it may be becoming in some countries, the authoritarian model of development is ultimately flawed”.
According to him, whatever politicians claim during election campaigns, “no single party or leader or philosophy has a monopoly on wisdom”. Instead, the progress of humanity shows that wisdom arises from the open competition between ideas “when different viewpoints are given the oxygen to contend freely and fairly”.
Noting that corruption is one of the biggest sources of anger in many countries, Hunt said far more effective than the crackdowns regularly launched by authoritarian regimes is the sunlight of transparency. There is a ‘striking overlap’ between the least corrupt countries in global indices and those with the freest media, he added.
“Indeed no fewer than seven of the top ten cleanest nations in the world, as ranked by Transparency International, are also in the top ten for Press Freedom. And there is no mystery why. Powerful people care about their reputations. They are therefore far less likely to abuse their positions if there is a real risk of exposure”, Hunt said. (Courtesy: HT)