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Media and Government respect for human rights

Discuss about the Federal Parliament and Protection of Human Rights.

Human rights refer to fundamental rights entitled to every human being. According to The United Nations Human Rights (OHCR), human rights do not discriminate any person by origin, race, religion, economic status among social categories. Human rights are closely related to each other there by demanding impartiality in guaranteeing them. OHCR asserts that human rights are provided by international laws, customary laws and treaties between nations. The government has the responsibility of ensuring that their citizens fully enjoy the basic human rights.

Human ‘obligations’ can be defined as the responsibilities that the government or individual have in the process of fulfilling basic human rights. According to Arias, O (2009), human rights can only be important if we take the responsibility of respecting them without considering our cultural values since human rights and obligations determine human relations universally.

According to OHCR, human rights and obligation are inseparable. The international law obligates the state to protect and fulfill human rights. To protect human rights, the state should act in such a way that it does not affect the enjoyment of the human rights by its citizens. The state should take affirmative action to protect the individuals and groups against abuse in every way possible. The citizens, on the other hand, should take the obligation of respecting basic human rights individuals of groups as well.

In the history of man, people in different regimes have for long been struggling with the issue of human rights. The concept of human rights may have its origin from various political and religious ideologies. For instance, in the 18th and 19th centuries, various European scholars proposed the concept of “natural rights.”  This concept referred to rights acquired by a person by being a human being.

This concept led to some revolutions in the 1700s when the majority of the British colonies in North America gained independence. The revolution led to the formulation of the U.S Declaration of the Rights of man. Later in 1989, the French monarchy was overthrown by the people and the first French Republic was established. From this revolution came the Declaration of the rights of man.

Thomas Thoreau in his treatise, Civil Disobedience used the term ‘Human Rights.’ His work became an inspiration to many people among them, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and it helped them develop the idea of non-violence resistance which they use to resist unethical government actions.

Balance of right and obligations in contemporary Australia

In the 19th and 20th in America, many people were held captive and worked as slaves most of which were black people. Their working conditions were poor since they were being tortured, starved and in some instances, children were involved. This resulted in a revolution fighting for human rights. As a result, the slave was released however, they did not enjoy their freedom for many decades that followed.

Many activism groups who were politically and religiously based have been formed throughout history with many of them fighting for human rights. They brought about revolutions some of which were bloody making many innocent citizens to suffer. They pushed for the governments to change their practices which in one way or another undermined the human rights of the people. However, these revolutions angered non participants since they viewed both the government and the activist to be fighting for their political ambitions rather than humanitarian concerns which seemed not to be for the good of all the people.

As a result of these revolutions, some of the movements achieved great success which created an important milestone in the struggle for the establishment of universal human rights. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi movement ended the colonial rule in India. In South Africa Mandela led a movement which was fighting for the termination of apartheid rule and this led to freedom in the country. In many countries, Labour unions have been effortlessly fighting for the rights of workers which have led to better working conditions, wages, and working hours among other human rights entitled to workers. Feminist revolutions all over the world have for a long time been fighting for the rights of women and their efforts seen to bore fruits in many countries.

According to Stammers (1999), human rights movements consist of individuals with a common interest. The role played by human rights movements cannot be underestimated as they have enforced several changes in the society which have resulted to the enjoyment of the human rights.

The fouth estate plays an crucial role in ensuring that human rights are respected and protected. According to Woodring (2009), what justifies media freedom is its obligation of overseeing the government. Different countries have different regulations towards the media, in the most democratic nation the media is guaranteed much freedom than in most autocratic governments. Media freedom has a different relationship with how the government respects human rights which mostly depends on the type of government regime that is in existence. Woodring (2009) notes that media freedom in autocratic governments influences the government negatively in their respect to human rights and vice versa in democratic governments.

Some of the non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International perceive media freedom to have the ability to improve government respect for human rights. It is critical to note that the media informs both the government and the public on various issues thus it form a common platform for communication. According to Woodring(2009), the media influences the government action as well as its respect for human rights.

In issues related to peace in various countries, some scholars investigated the degree into which media freedom contributed to peace in a given country. For instance, Van Belle (1997) suggested that if the media can provide trustworthy between information governments, then it is likely for two countries to engage in war. It is, therefore, evident from the above information that media freedom plays a role in ensuring peaceful coexistence between nations.

According to Whitten (2009), it is perceived the freedom of media in democratic countries results to better respect for human rights while in autocratic countries it does not. This implies that media freedom has a different influence on the respect for human rights by government depending on the type of regime in the country. Democratic governments give much freedom to its media hence people can freely give their views and participate in discussing issues facing them including mistreatments by the government.

In her study on the interaction of media freedom with the level of democracy/autocracy on physical integrity rights, (1981-1995). Woodring found that media freedom or lack of it influences the government's respect for human rights either democratic or autocratic regimes.

According to Williams, Constant Law & Bills Digest Group (2013). In 1975, The Federal Parliament of Australia enacted The Racial Discrimination Act which provides basic human rights such as freedom of religion and trading with other countries. This act was enacted in the effort of the Australian Federal Parliament to protect human rights of the citizen which are its main priority.

According to Doussa, (2008), in his lecture, reconciling human rights and counter terrorism-a crucial challenge, pointed out that free and democratic societies such as Australia are faced with a challenge of facing terrorism without abandoning basic human rights. However, he argued that at times there is a need to balance individual rights with the need to protect collective security. It worthy to note that in case, the right of an individual is a threat to the rights of the majority then it is not worth guaranteeing.

In the past, the government of Australia has guaranteed the citizens the right to participate in electing their leaders through the process of elections

Conclusion

The concept of human right is an issue that has resulted to emergence different perspectives, revolutions, unions, political movements, religious beliefs and social movements. Each of the above categories pushes for what they believe would be good for all the people affected by a certain issue of concern. The media acts as the media of communication between the various stakeholders of human rights. It is, therefore, important for the governments and its citizens to balance between their human rights and the obligations they have. Freedom of media is crucial in ensuring that human rights and obligations are well balanced within the country. The government should protect individual rights while the citizens have an obligation to consider each other’s rights. The media should advocate for the respect of the human rights in the country and also internationally.

References

Arias, O. (2009). A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, Vienna Austria

Arias, O.  (2009). Declaration and Programme of Action World Conference on Human rights, Vienna, 1993. Available from:  https://humanistictexts.org/undo.html

Dousa, J. (2008) Reconciling human rights and counter- terrorism- a crucial challenge. The annual James Cook University Mayo Lecture.  : Available from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/reconciling-human-rights-and-counter-terrorism-crucial-challenge.

Helmut, S. (2008). United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner: What are human rights? Available from: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx

Williams, G. (1999). The Federal Parliament and the Protection of Human Rights. Available from: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp9899/99rp20

Stammers, N. (1999). Social Movements and Social Construction of Human Rights. Human Quarterly. Vol 21 no 4. The John Hopkins University Press. P 984-987

Weafer, J. (2003). The jigsaw of Advocacy. Comhairle

Whitten-Woodring. J, (2009), Watchdog or Lapdog? Media Freedom, Regime Type, and Government Respect for Human Rights. International Studies Quarterly, vol 53 University of Southern California. P595-625.

Yenken, D, (2012) The Australian Collaboration, University of Melbourne.

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