It is recognised everywhere that the media play a vital role in protecting democracy and its institutions. The media are in the best position to investigate and report on issues of public importance and interest, particularly relating to the political process, the conduct of public officials, the positions taken by government with respect to international issues, corruption, mismanagement or dishonesty in government, and human rights issues, among other things. Indeed, it is fair to say that the vast majority of individuals gain almost all of their knowledge about matters outside of their own day-to-day lives from the media.
This role of the media is just important during elections as at other times. Citizens rely heavily on information imparted by the media to learn about the competing candidates, the leading issues being contested and the platforms of the various parties. Without the media, making the most basic decisions relating to the democratic process – deciding which candidate to vote for is an obvious example – would be immeasurably more difficult.
It is, therefore, of paramount importance that the freedom of expression of the media be ensured and protected. Media actors, such as journalists and editors, should be able to exercise their own right to freedom of expression. Even more important, however, is the right of others to seek and to receive information, a vital component of freedom of expression, which depends upon respect for the freedom of expression of the media.