- The fourth estate of the world’s largest democracy is fast acquiring a dark underbelly which threatens the vibrancy of democracy itself. Threats to press freedom are far greater from within than from without.
Role of Media
- Media plays an important role of independent watch dog and brings forth the grievances of the people to the policy makers.
- It generates the awareness about the governance.
- It plays proactive role in exposing scams.
- It provides other information to public like social, political and economic mileau.
- Social media is nowadays used to interconnect people, for debates and other highlights.
- It acts as an agent of social change and leads to social transformation. Eg Right to Life, Right to Information.
- It influences the lifestyle of the citizens as a whole. So it bestows a bundle of expectations and responsibilities to tackle societal issues.
- Independent media is needed to assert real purpose or else the watchdog becomes lapdog of political and corporate interests. They display boldness but selectively.
- Accountability collides with commercial intent, TRP ratings and amassing revenue by giving importance to trivial issues. Eg Farmer’s death ignored for a movie release.
- Paid news affects the objective role and even opinions are turned with ‘yellow journalism’. Recent elections of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab saw many instances of paid news cases documented by Election Commission.
- Trail by media prejudices the criminal proceedings.
- Even the sting operations are driven by political notions.
- Sensationalisation, scandal obsessed and insensitive news violate the privacy of citizens. Eg. Indian media leave during Nepal Quakes.
- Age old dilemma of free-vibrant media vs public accountability.
- We need to give more powers to ‘Press Council of India’ (PCI) that was set up to ensure accountability and ensure that freedom isn’t misused. Despite being quasi-judicial it is toothless as it can only warn and not punish.
- We need more self-regulation with less government control to avoid conflict of interest.
- Since other major democratic institutions are coming under the scrutiny, media cannot be an exception to this.
- There needs to be some ownership restrictions on cross holdings and aggregate holdings.