Handbook: Questions for the media

Although “the media” can refer to specific entities or groups (including social media), in the context of this handbook, the media is equated with the mass media in a modern society, namely, newspapers and journals, television, radio and other forms of electronic communication. The term could also include all of the channels of communication within a society and between societies, as well as the channels that do not reach out to many people at once.

The media is of great cultural, economic and political importance in society, and the concept of a free press is a cornerstone of modern democracy. The media is especially influential in the creation and shaping of public opinion. This influence is also exerted upon executive, judicial and legislative powers, manifested by the democratic oversight and reporting by journalists exercising their right and duty to scrutinise. Furthermore, based on their power, the media is sometimes referred to as the “fourth branch of government”. With regard to surveillance, the role of the media can be considered as two-fold: first, the media can be seen as a surveillant power, with the responsibility to question and report on the central constituent powers in the society. Second, the media may engage with the concept and practice of surveillance, by raising awareness and building knowledge of surveillance and resilience to surveillance in society.

  1. What information concerning the (proposed) surveillance systems is available to the public? Is the information sufficient, and are the sources diverse enough, to carry on journalistic research? Are there institutional ways to obtain further relevant information?
  2. How can I use my journalism as a tool for knowledge-building and awareness for those within the scope of the surveillance?
  3. Am I contributing to the expansion of surveillance practices through my work?
  4. Am I devoting enough attention to alternative or dissenting views with regard to a (proposed) surveillance system, policy or practice?
  5. How can I build on international events and development regarding surveillance practices to draw attention and raise awareness in my own national context?
  6. How can I contribute to a higher degree of awareness by shedding light on the widespread nature and impact of surveillance in society?
  7. Are there changes happening in my national context of which it could be important for the public to be made aware, even though the topics may not be well received by some policy-makers?
  8. How is surveillance understood in my society? Could there be a need for a debate about the very content of the term?
  9. How can I engage with relevant authorities in my country, such as the Data Protection Authority and/or Surveillance Commissioner, with the aim of building resilience within the population?
  10. How can my journalism encourage and facilitate public debate about surveillance issues?
  11. What are the obstacles I face in investigating surveillance practices, and how can I best overcome them?
  12. How can I most effectively play a role in voicing concerns and stimulating public debate about surveillance issues, e.g., sharing information or collaborating with civil society organisations?

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