The relationship between citizens, journalism and politics, key to a healthy democracy

The International Day of Democracy, commemorated on September 15, is not only necessary to raise awareness about the need for citizens to enjoy it. It is also a time to reflect on some of the problems that prevent your development in a positive way. The success of social coexistence, which in recent years seems to be in a critical state, depends on finding a common goal capable of linking its members above particular needs.

We perceive the deterioration of our coexistence in the vulnerability of the mental health of adolescents, we notice it in an exhausted capitalist market, it is seen in the war conflicts that perpetuate a world of sides, and it is evident in a political activity based on interests individuals. But, above all, we feel the weakness of our system when we contemplate the lack of understanding between politicians and citizens and between them.

For democracy to be effective, it is necessary that some actors assume the sovereignty of the people to exercise the function of intermediaries between citizens and parliament, and thus launch the deliberation process required to reach agreements.

A conversation full of noise

Political mediation has been obscured since technology companies burst into the public square and disrupted representative democracy. Along with appropriating user data and selling it to advertisers, they used their networks to distribute information created by others. But also to facilitate the participation of users in these conversations with the chimerical illusion of increasing consensus and satisfaction of everyone’s interests.

However, as Habermas suggests in his last essay, A new structural change in the public sphere and deliberative politics, social networks seem to offer a form of communication in which the public and the private are mixed, giving rise to a fragmented and narcissistic public sphere that deforms the perception of the common. The problem is that the current conversation is more like noise than a peaceful exchange of ideas aimed at solving problems and reaching agreements.

Social platforms have multiplied the flow of information and have allowed citizens to be part of the public sphere in a more direct way. However, the social debate has not improved, but rather it has become polarized and voices that are not in line with the dominant culture have been eliminated.

To restore the media space of understanding, independent and economically solvent media are necessary, capable of directing information flows and condensing public opinions. In the interview published in the book Let’s recover journalism (2023), the president of an editorial group commented that he had to humbly accept that the first thing readers look for in one of his newspapers was not the editorial but the horoscope. And then, the obituaries.

With this anecdote he reinforced the idea of ​​putting the reader at the center of the information project, and not the partisan or egocentric pretensions of the editors. In short, a healthy democracy depends on media capable of providing critical thinking to the audience and bringing to politicians the problems that affect and worry citizens.

Solutions to promote democracy

For this purpose, the European Commission has financed the project Resilient Media for Democracy (ReMeD) as part of its Horizon Europe 2021-2027 research and innovation program. ReMeD is a consortium made up of eight European universities and the European Federation of Journalists. It is made up of 30 researchers led by the Faculty of Communication of the University of Navarra who will dedicate the next three years to addressing the difficulties faced by citizens, journalists and communication companies both in access to information and in the exercise of their profession. .

Technology has always been a determining factor in the media market. Sometimes it is seen as an enemy, and other times as an ally. One of the transformative aspects that ReMeD wants to pay attention to is how digital technology has influenced and distorted those relationships between communication professionals and citizens.

In contrast to traditional companies, alternative channels have emerged such as bloggers, YouTubers or influencers that occupy an increasingly relevant place when it comes to informing citizens. Through collaboration between academics, journalists and citizens, the project seeks to identify solutions and communication channels that promote a democracy in which the media act as intermediaries between public powers and the population.

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