Expanding public communication spaces is theme of latest Media Development

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Expanding public communication spaces is theme of latest Media Development

The new issue of WACC s quarterly journal, Media Development, highlights the role of public communication, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, lessons learned from various responses, and the challenges ahead. 

The pandemic highlighted many issues, including the importance of accurate and timely information in saving lives, and the importance of local languages, writes WACC General Secretary Philip Lee in his editorial. 

“Responding to Covid-19, it is vital to get accurate and trustworthy messages to people so that they know what they need to do and where they can get help,” Lee writes.  

While most mainstream media have done their job of producing “extraordinary and sustained coverage” of the pandemic, he says, these are not accessible to everyone. He notes the vulnerability of Indigenous people, refugees, and those living in rural poverty, who have no access to mainstream media and other sources of information in their own languages.  Community media had to address these critical gaps in information and communication, he adds.  

Vincent Rajkumar examines India’s “communication failure” during the pandemic, and notes how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation became “a model of how not to communicate during a health emergency.” 

Rajkumar triggered a mass exodus of tens of thousands of migrants when he gave citizens barely a four-hour notice about the lockdown he was imposing, he writes. “He did not share facts about the government’s level of preparedness, nor did he comfort the public regarding the quality of our doctors and medical researchers. He did not explain what would be permitted in this “curfew-like” lockdown, resulting in a late night raid on markets. Worse, he did not offer any assurance to the most vulnerable people that the government would look after their food and other basic requirements.”

Modi managed to turn a state of public health crisis into a state of collective paranoia,” says Rajkumar, who is Director of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, in India. 

In Covid-19 pandemic and biopolitics in Latin AmericaSilvio Waisbord and María Soledad Segura raise the question of whether the pandemic marks the birth of a new form of biopolitics.

They zero in on Latin America, which became the new epicenter of the pandemic by June, and note that its various governments have used digital technologies to address the spread of the coronavirus. “They have collaborated with private companies and universities in setting up mobile applications for geolocalizing and contact-tracing possibly infected people. Expectedly, these actions have raised concerns about the negative impact of massive surveillance,” they say. 

At the moment, most of these government are not getting a handle on how to launch and maintain these digital technologies. What stands in the way of pandemic-driven biopolitics is not a firm official commitment to protecting personal data or to balancing public health objectives and democratic rights,” they write. “The obstacles are rather technological and institutional, namely, poor reach and limited effectiveness of digital and mobile technologies as well as deep-seated problems of state performance in terms of governmentality and the provision of health services in the region.” 

Other articles in this issue include:  

  • SDGs: The challenge to improve lives after the Covid-19 crisis, by Alexander Trepelkov 
  • Sensibiliser sur le Covid-19: Un travail complexe, by Mathilde Kpalla 
  • La pandemia de Covid-19 y la pulsión por la vigilancia estatal, by J. Carlos Lara 
  • Data as public good, and the public sector, by Parminder Jeet Singh 
  • Media viability gets a boost, by Lorenzo Vargas 
  • Tensions between media censorship and regulation in Jamaica, by Brittany Forsythe  

Media Development is published quarterly by WACC Global.