Tuesday, 24 January 2012


One of the books I received at Christmas was Aung San Suu Kyi's Letters from Burma. I have just "dipped" and read a short chapter entitled "Communication". It offered an interesting reflection when, here in the UK, we are from time to time listening to news reports of evidence to the Leveson inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press. It is the use of the word "commerce" in the following passage that particularly struck me:
Did cave dwellers paint hunting scenes to pass an idle hour or was it fulfilment of an unconscious need to immortalize their deeds for posterity? Or was it an attempt to communicate to others their view of life around them, an embryonic form of media activity? What are newspapers, radio, television and other means of mass communication all about? Some who put more emphasis on the mass than on the communication might say cynically that these are simply about making money by catering to the public taste for sensationalism and scandal. But genuine communication constitutes a lot more than mere commerce in news, views and information.
Commenting on the experience of her own encounters with interviewers, Aung San Suu Kyi writes:
There have been agonising sessions when language difficulties make ti a struggle for the interviewer and myself to communicate with each other. Then there are those sessions when perception, rather than language, is the problem and questions puzzle while answers are misunderstood and are sometimes misrepresented to the extent that there is little in common between what is said and what appears in print. It all shows that communication between human beings is interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, infuriating, intricate, exhausting - and essential.

Experienced professional journalists can make even the last interview of a gruelling day more of a relaxation than an ordeal. They know how to put the questions so that new facets appear to an old situation and talking to them becomes a learning process. They combine thorough, enquiring minds with an integrity and a human warmth that make conversation with them stimulating and enjoyable.  Good photographers and good journalists are masters at communication, with a talent for presenting as accurately as possible what is happening in one part of the world to the rest of the globe. They are a boon to those of us who live in land where there is not freedom of expression.
 In the light of the events that led to the setting up of the Leveson inquiry, I wonder whether those of us who have not been without the freedom to communicate really value that freedom sufficiently not to abuse it.

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