Political Communication 4
Political communication focuses on the spread of information and its influence on politics, policy makers, citizens, and the news media. It involves public discussions through media coverage, political speeches, and talks by ordinary citizens. Communication becomes political due to its content rather than the source of the message. The new era of the internet and social media necessitates the understanding of freedom of speech to guide individual’s discussions in accordance with the law (Sheckles 2012 p.78). Freedom of speech is a fundamental element of a democratic nation due to the representative nature of the government. Australia is a nation is one such nation whose constitution guides in the interpretation of rights and freedoms concerning political freedom.
In Australia, the constitution does not explicitly protect the citizens’ of speech and the extent of this freedom relies on the high court’s interpretation of the constitution. The high court first explained the concept of implied freedom of political communication in 1992 during the cases of Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth and Nationwide News v Wills (Sadurski 2000 pp.170). In these cases, the high court ruled that the constitution guarantees freedom of expression in public and political affairs through provisions for a representative government. This ruling limited the ability of commonwealth to legislate against individuals’ implied freedom of speech. The case of Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997), further clarified the aspect and extent of implied constitutional rights of speech. The court referred to section 7 and 22 of the constitution that protect the citizens’ right of communication to make informed choices as electors (Young 2007 pp.44). The implied freedom of political communication provided by the constitution is however limited to relevant information for the operation of the representative system.
Despite the implied freedom of political communication offered by the constitution, political expression remains curtailed in Australia. Mainstream media faces a major setback due to the concentration of media ownership in the country. Citizens have limited access to political space for use in political debates, which further denies them the right to political communication. In 2010, the high court assured protection of rights of any groupings to participate in political debates and push for political change in maintenance of the representative democracy (Goodman 2011 pp.5). The constitution therefore gives citizens the right to agitate for political change since it is their mandate as voters of the representatives in government. This promises a bright future for the political environment in Australia by giving citizens and political groupings the freedom to partake in political debates and initiate reforms.
In conclusion, Australia may lack explicit protection of free speech by the constitution but the representative system of government offers citizens an implied freedom of political communication. Through case laws, the high court has the potential to further the political communication definition and its limitations. Political communication is a subset of the concept of free speech and involves the core principles of democracy. It is the channel through which, citizens can engage in political discussions, gather information concerning politics, and influence the political direction of the nation (Smyth & Reddel 2005 pp.111). The right to vote therefore goes hand in hand with the freedom to participate in public and political affairs.
Goodman J2011,’Freedom of Political Communication in Australia: The Aid/Watch Case’, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, Vol.3, No.3s pp.1-6.
Sadurski W 2000, ‘Offending with Impunity: Racial Vilification and Freedom of Speech’, Sydney Law Review , Vol 163, pp. 167–173.
Sheckles T F 2012, Political communication in the Anglophone world: Case studies, Lanham: Lexington Books.
Smyth P, Reddel T 2005, Community and local governance in Australia, Sydney: UNSW Press.
Young S A 2007, Government communication in Australia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.