16th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Marciel Pariente

Rubén Marciel Pariente, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Deconstructing the Democratic Hope on the Press


In this paper I argue that laments of the Press failing to fulfil its democratic duty are usually unjustified. To do so, I coin two concepts. The first is the citizen’s right to information (CRI). It easy access to the information they need to make democratic choices. The second concept is the democratic hope on the press (the hope), which refers to the common belief that the Press has a moral obligation (its democratic duty) to fulfill the CRI. Both are based upon the assumption that in modern states citizens cannot acquire the information needed for meaningful democratic choices on their own. Although I accept this assumption, I hold that denounces of the Press failing to its duty are not well-constructed enough.

The first part of my critique shows that a strong version of the hope is untenable. Other institutions apart of the press, and citizens themselves, share the responsibility to fulfill the CRI. Then I argue that the hope -usually implicit- needs further conceptual refinement. First, the subject of the obligation is not well-defined. To overcome the unclarity around the concepts of media, press and journalism, I propose to define the Press not simply as media, but as the journalistic use of some media. Second, the most common justification of Press’ democratic duty is unconvincing enough because it appeals to informer’s power. Alternatively, I suggest grounding Press’ duties on the informer’s explicit and realistic will to inform the citizenry. Third, the content of the Press’ obligation is also very unclear. My proposal is to identify what the Press should tell citizens by looking into the informative needs that may be deduced from their ideal role within a given democratic structure.