Media in security and governance - The role of the news media in security oversight and accountability

Release date: 2003-12

The concept of media as the ‘fourth estate’ is now firmly established as a main principle of modern Western democratic theory. Free and independent media are a key element in democracies, where they play a vital role as a bridge or transmission belt between society and those who govern. The security sector, however, tends to remain resistant to the processes of democratisation and civilian oversight. Legitimised by the concerns of ‘national security’, governments and security elites advance reasons for lack of transparency and low levels of public scrutiny. Despite some attempts to manage public and media relations, the levels of transparency in performing the tasks and communicating them to the media remain less than ideal. The global war on terror and heightened security threats across the world further contribute to the curbing of freedom of expression, access to information and public scrutiny of the security sector activities. This publication examines this context of the current complex relationship between Western security structures and the media, and uses it to draw implications for the ongoing process of the ‘security sector reform’ (SSR) in transitional countries.

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