THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN PROTECTING THE DEMOCRATIC NORMS IN INDIA
Updated: Feb 17
Submitted by Srishti Tomar.
Abraham Lincoln said about the democracy that “democracy is the government for the people, of the people and by the people” . Media is typically act as a bridge between the people and the authorities and in order to continue democracy Media plays a vital role to boom focus among the society of the people, as the information coming from the media directs, inform, educate, entertain and provide knowledge to the readers or viewers directly. Media is spine of democracy; the media make the citizens conscious concerning the various social, political and economical aspects happening around the world.
Thomas Caryle defined the free Media as the fourth estate or pillar of democracy, whose work is to put an eye over the working and functioning of the other three pillars i.e. Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. The media in general term is like a mirror which persistently tries to show us bare truth and harsh realities of the surrounding. It provides us immense knowledge about the happening around the world and due to which we the citizens gather information regarding various subject.
Media also own loopholes in the democratic society, which helps the government in filling the gaps between these loopholes to make a system more accountable and democratic friendly. Therefore, media operated democracy is parallel to a car without wheels. Media severs as a conduit between the public and the working government. It is like a tool which has power to shape and disrupt the mind, perception, viewpoint or opinion of the public which make direct impression on the sentiments and emotions of the public. All the means of media such as newspaper, radio, televisions and cinema are ruling the mind and heart of people.
The Media has helped to shape the democratic society by highlighting some issues like sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and infanticides which were considered strictly private at one point of time. Media played a very significant role in establishing democracy throughout the world. In the constitution of India, Article 19 (1) (a) which concern with freedom of speech and expression impliedly includes ‘freedom of press’ and it also includes ‘right to know’ which is another basic right of public. Hence, in this sphere also media plays an important role to provide information and various facts regarding different issues.
ROLE OF MEDIA IN ANCIENT PERIOD
During American Independence movement and French Revolution in eighteenth century media was the only means of reaching or communicating with the people. If I further talk about the emergence of media in India, we see that it originates from 1780 with the introduction of ‘The Bengal Gazette’. Media became the source of information for the public of colonial India, as they became aware about the atrocities of the British government, gave a force to the India’s independence movement due to which millions of people joined the leaders in this fight against the British imperialism. Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908 was promulgated by Lord Minto and under this act local authorities have power to ban the newspapers or to take actions against the editor who published any matter deemed to constitute an incitement to rebellion.
In our Constitution of India there is no specific term as freedom of press is mentioned, but in case of Brij Bhushan V. State of Delhi , Supreme Court held that in India under Article 19(1) (a) freedom of speech and expression also includes the freedom of press print and electronic media. If anyone violates or infringe the rights of media they could knock the doors of High Court through Article 226 and Supreme Court through Article 32. Indian Express Newspaper V. Union of India (1985), this case guaranteed the freedom of press from interference of authorities, which is ensured by circulation. In case of Romesh Thaper V. State of Madras , Patanjali Sastri Justice observed that freedom of speech and expression included propagation of ideas, and this is ensured by freedom of circulation. Media performs an important accountability mechanism by rising important issues such as poverty, corruption, caste based discrimination and transparency of elections which might otherwise never be publically addressed or debated. It also stimulates government to take actions on social and public policies. “Our freedom depends in large part, on the continuation of a free press, which is the strongest guarantee of a free society.”
TRANSFORMATION OF MEDIA FROM PRINT TO ELECTRONIC
“Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of its legislature but also under the care and guidance of public opinion and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which opinion can become articulate”- INDIAN PRESS COMMISSION. As we know that Indian media has a long journey from newspapers and radio to the current era of television, electronic media and social media. The liberalisation of Indian economy during the period of 1990s we saw an influx of investments in the media houses by large corporate houses, business houses, political elites and industrialists, they found it as an opportunity to improve their image, business and brands. The media has played a great and courageous role in the coverage of Kargil war 1999 and 26/11 Bombay terror attacks also performed marvellous role at Jessica Lal murder case, Priyadarshini Matto case, Nirbhaya case etc. The news channels are now involved in the show business industry as TRPs became a cause of rivalry amongst news houses that is seen as a medium to provide knowledge and educated the public on the issues of utmost importance, which became a source of biased viewpoints. The role of media is to make the public aware of democratic rights and the three institutions of democracy. Media acts as the voice of millions of citizens, when government institutions become corrupt and authoritarian or when they turn a blind eye towards the issues concerning the society.
CURRENT POSITION OF MEDIA
Media played a wholehearted role in arousing the public against many evils of society, for instance child marriage, killing of female and born child, child labour etc. through educational programs and even government can also use media as an instrument of social change. Sting operations have been able to expose the corrupt official, the trader of immorality i.e. who promote flesh trade. But media has also become an instrument in some cases for proclamation of untrue and agitating messages which stir up the emotions of the public. Whereas the negative messages can divide community which gives birth to discrimination, violence, war and feeling of enmity against the other community. Media portrayals can sometimes serve to inflame the narrative of the oppositional forces and clashing value based differences. It often prefer to dwell on conflict since conflict, violence and drama sell newspapers to attract audience.
Recently media portrays and shows the news and facts in an extremely wrapped manner due to which we see the drop in the world press freedom index. The function of investigation is of Central Bureau of Investigation, what today’s media is exercising and instead of concerning over the facts; media started sensationalising the issues specifically criminal cases. For instances, media trails where journalists itself became judge by laying false accusations and created a controversy, in which they portrays a person accused which influence the public and even they somewhere influence the judgement of courts also by creating pressure of society. As in case of Arushi Talwar murder case, the media has verdict that the murder has been done by her parents and the media portrays them guilty. Same incidents happened in Shridevi death, Sushant Singh Rajput death, Ram Mandir and Gyanvapi issue and now about collegium. But due to the growing influence of political parties there has been decrease in the quality of news reaching the audience as media has served as a platform for parties to promote their government work.
Media is also biased, promote and support specific political parties which influence the mind of public and young youth as each person has deep faith on the information originating from newspapers and electronic media as well.
The freedom of press should be exercised by utmost safety that is media does not make any attempt out of anything just for the sake of sensitization which will results into violation, protest and grievous attacks. The media should be independent and needs to perform its functions without being biased and influenced by any corporation, association and political party in order to secure democracy or media’s designation as fourth pillar of democracy. Media has freedom of press, but Article 19 (2) on other hand provides reasonable restrictions, which directs that the media couldn’t print or portrays anything which disrupts the opinion of the public. Md. Ajmal Amir Kasab V. State of Maharashtra , in this case it was held that live broadcasting may aid terrorists. Hence, it is most essential for the media to function independently and without being biased towards any particular party.