Information has long been viewed by some in leadership as a threat to security, as a threat to “order.”
Think on that statement for a moment. Consider the full extent of what it means.
Assuming you have re-read the first sentence, I want to offer some examples. Snowden, as many know, fled the country after dispersing information about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Many journalists worldwide have found themselves imprisoned or executed for their act of distributing information. Chelsea Manning is another example of someone who provided information to others that some would prefer to not be broadcasted, and sits in prison for it. Another example is Egyptian journalist, Abdullah Elfakharany (Middle East Eye, 2015) (see below)
On one side of this debate, many people prefer a “free press” that can share information because it keeps the “powers that be” under check, so long as they know their transgressions could be brought to light by one or more ambitious journalists, or even bloggers in today’s society. Youtubers, Tweeters, and even Facebookers and WordPressers are among the ranks of “information sharers” even if they aren’t known by the classical term “journalist.”
On the other side of the debate, is an opinion that is not usually discussed or considered. On this end are the leaders. Those who are charged with keeping the peace and order of a system as it is. For them, the sharing of information has the potential to do just as much harm as good. They want guidelines and in some places, such as China, government oversight and censorship.
To those who support a free press, this appears to be oppressive and controlling, an attempt to restrict the rewards of power for the few, while keeping the masses ignorant and docile. This is still a possibility, but I’d like to open a dialogue on another possibility, in an attempt to negotiate and break down barriers between the two sides of this debate.
What if many leaders simply want to prevent violence that could destabilize a region, disrupt the economy, and possibly lead to violence and loss of life?
Let’s think on this question for a moment. In some instances, the dispersal of information has led to violence and disturbances that have done just that. In some cases, it could be argued that the chaos as a necessary means to an end, while in others, we realize the situation should have been handled differently.
WHAT I PROPOSE to leaders of government and to leaders of activism, is a meeting IN THE MIDDLE.
The suffering and concerns of the masses CANNOT be ignored because they will inevitably lead to the unrest and destabilization that both sides would like to prevent. Leaders CANNOT simply ignore the plights of the people and expect that they will remain docile and happy little ignorant masses. We know throughout history that this has never been possible. People will react when they are oppressed and/or suffering.
A free press is a necessary element. We cannot turn away from that. If the people feel that information is being horded among a small group of leaders, DISTRUST is inevitable and to sound like Yoda for a minute, “Distrust leads to anger, anger leads to protests, protests lead to riots, riots lead to damage and violence.” PREVENT THE DISTRUST if you want the masses to remain supportive of your leadership.
LEADERS seek out discussions with your local activists and citizens. Your task is to remain informed on the current processes, what is working and what needs to be modified. ACTIVISTS and CITIZENS it is your task to speak with openness about your needs. BOTH GROUPS must enter into this discussions with the sole intent of addressing the needs, and being willing to adapt the current order in a manner that addresses those needs without destabilizing the society.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT things to remember is the manner in which you speak. Speak as though you REMEMBER you are all on the same side. Activists, We cannot do without a proper government and system in place. Leaders, We cannot do without adaptation as society progresses. In that way BOTH SIDES are CORRECT. Speak always with the attitude that DIALOGUE will remain respectful and directed toward finding solutions.
IN THE END, it is the societies which utilize BOTH GROUPS consistently IN COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS which see the greatest success and long term sustainability.
Elfarkharany, Abdullah (2015) “Worse than a Criminal.” Middle East Eye.