The fundamental duty and right to information in digital media: To what extent and in what ways can no time-space constraints be an ethical framework for freedom of expression?


This paper explores an approach to communication based on the conflict between the fundamental duty and right to information, and the fundamental duty and right of freedom of speech, and evaluates whether digital media’s lack of time-space constraints can provide the ethical framework for resolving what is acceptable mediation. The investigation looks first at how media(tiza)tion is made: when communication content arrives to us, it is shaped not only by the technicalities of the media but also by mediators. Thus, instead of being a locus for different interests to manifest themselves and influence us, content takes us to the field of narrative, rhetoric, censorship, spin-doctoring, among other non-factual communication forms that tendentially amplify specific ideological messages. When this is seen together with Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence model - drawing on the theory that people fear separation or isolation from those around them, so they tend to keep their attitudes to themselves when they think they are in the minority, and therefore visible ideas tend to reproduce and grow whereas less visible information tends to disappear - it becomes a frightening vision for democracy. On the one hand, the digital media are now offering more space and time for counter-arguing, but are the media or is it rather the type of mediation that constitutes the problem/solution? Individuals do not possess knowledge about all the relevant aspects of their life. We rely on mediators for decoding many important messages. So, the second section of this paper engages with the concepts of radically democratic and independent mediation, and evaluates whether it is an alternative that secures a promising future. In specific, it takes as case study example 'Via Glocal', a communication and (in)formation digital platform which is being developed within Portuguese university structures. It, then, explores the issues and challenges of communicating and mediat(iz)ing “relevant”, “democratic” and “factual” information to the markets through Via Glocal. The findings reveal that Via Glocal faces significant difficulties at local provision levels and in obtaining a more consistent compromise from global partners. This paper will, however, argue that the case study provides grounds for cautious optimism as a promising contribution for the future of democracy and ethical (in)formation in particular.