Democracy! This is a term that may be familiar to many people. One of the most popular definitions of democracy was given by former U.S president Abraham Lincoln, according to him- "democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people". India is a democratic country and our constitution unequivocally declares India as a country having democratic form of government.
Now for every democratic nation it is pivotal that its main organs i.e. legislature, executive and judiciary work in harmony and fulfil the duties in their respective fields. But there is another organ in a democratic system which plays a crucial role and that organ is Media/press. Media is considered as the fourth estate of democracy and a forum for public discussion and debate. Every information, news, controversy, judgement is just a click away from you.
Media whether written, spoken and broadcast generally have a common purpose to exchange information and share opinions. Today's media not only provides news and information but also has developed a flair of entertainment. Media in real sense has impacted lives of everyone, from dissemination of one's ideas, opinions and knowledge all over the globe to organising hot-crispy debates and discussions on national security and engaging in cross-questioning over social issues media is playing its role very efficiently.
Media is now omnipresent and it has invaded all facets of life of an individual. Now media has become so powerful that it is potent enough to make or break any government just by using its power of shaping public opinion. But looking at the present scenario whether it is the politicians spreading hate speech and imposing allegations on each other or the terror organisations trying to intimidate world peace media has become a weapon for every individual to use against one another and here arises the need for an accountable media and for this a liberated but regulated media is the need for today so that opinions, informations can be spread globally but the unfavourable or irrational content can be filtered out before reaching any global platform. Media helping revolutionaries The modern age is the age of representative democracy and every individual depends on the media for the secured and truthful information. Globally media has emerged as a very powerful and influential tool in all matters likewise in case of shaping democracies its role can not be neglected. Media and democracy always go hand-in-hand, they are obviously intertwined.
India has a huge history from its colonization to its independence and Indian freedom fighters made several efforts to make their voice sonorous enough to enlighten the unaware and unawake indian society. One such advanced effort was publication of Indian newspapers. They wanted people to be aware of their rights and obviously the media did this for them.
Sambad-Kaumudi in Bengali & Mirat-ul-Akbar in persian published by Raja ram mohan roy, Rost-Goftar by Dadabhai Naraoji, Kesari & Mahratta by Bal gangadhar tilak, The hindustan times by Madan mohan malaviya all these and many such other newspapers helped India achieve fate in its favour. Clearly they used the media because they knew what the media is eligible to do nobody else is. Media acts as a mirror of society and how much democratic a society is can be represented through the media. Media and democracies have a deep and strong association with each other.
Media shaping public opinions about governments Strong democratic countries always have a liberated but accountable media. Media acts as a watch-dog of society and being a watchdog it ensures government transparency, accountability, public scrutiny of decision makers in power, highlighting policy failures, corruption in judiciary, maladministration by executives and scandals in corporations everywhere media acts as a mirror showing reality.
The existence of media is successful in a democracy only when it is free from any unreasonable censorship or restrictions the moment the state holds media in hands and starts suppressing public opinions an imminent threat to democracy arises. Elections are the most essential element in the formation of democracy and obviously the media plays quite an active role during this time.
From failures to achievements of governments and their timely comparison and exit polls all such information frames a mindset among the masses about a government and this can evidently be seen in poll results. Lack of such information may lead to inactive participation by voters in the elections and a severe shortfall in voter's turnout may also arise which is absolutely hazardous for a democracy.
Media and democracy are two aspects or faces of one coin. Media structures the policies of a country by making public opinion. Media is absolutely empowered to turn the flow of the river of opinions into a particular direction. However the media directly cannot shape the policies but surely can criticize the policies and force the government to change the policies if found not in the interest of people. Media is the bridge between state and society and any criticism by the media may impact the popularity of the government.
Media a harbinger of social change The contemporary world is facing a lot of social issues like the patriarchy dominated society, gender based discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, illiteracy, global warming, violence and genocide, constantly increasing rate of heinous crimes and the newly arrived pandemic. Awareness regarding all such serious social issues is very important and this can only be made possible by the media.
Media is our knight in shining armour in these dark times and can be used as a platform for the elimination of social evils and bring positive changes in society. Media is an impartial source for exchange of opinions and views and acts as a guardian, educator, mentor to democratic societies, by performing such roles it is eligible to shape the public opinions against all social evils.
Remember the episode of Nirbhaya rape case when media played a crucial role in uniting the masses and pressurise the government to take strictest actions against the culprits. And the watershed movement initiated by Anna Hazare it was the media which led the movement to new heights and encouraged people to peacefully protest against the corrupt state. Hence the media is omnipotent to shape or decline a democracy. Media as a victim Today however, the media being a crucial organ of the democractic system is also not free from corruption or malpractices, every now and then it faces hindrances in exercising its rights.In recent scenario the India media has been subject to a lot of criticism for disregarding its obligation to social responsibility. Media trials running under the nose of courts are an acute limitation to the democracies.
The recent episode of DJ Halli communal riots in Bengaluru ignited due to some offensive social media posts by a politician is a black mark on the face of the media for being so irresponsibly and corruptly used. Such perilous communal practices in the media have severely affected the fabric of Indian democracy. Oft-times the media too becomes a victim facing excessive restrictions and threats by the state for revealing any information against them.
Hence in order to tackle the issues creating hindrances to media exercising its rights statutory authorities like the Press Council of India, TRAI(telecommunication regulatory authority of India) and CBFC(central board for film certification) were formed. These authorities not only regulate the media whether print, audio, visual but also make it accountable to the general public. Conclusion Media does more than mere reporting news. It acts as the voice of unprivileged society, it becomes the voice of the unheard and the weaker sections of society. In this era where race for sustainability is at its peak and the dynamic economic conditions are in vogue, media is the last resort to laymen seeking truth and accurate information on which he/she can rely upon.
Though the media has played its role as a 'watch-dog' quite efficiently and effectively and has also aided in participatory communication a lot still needs to be done. Media needs to be cautious while airing or publishing any sensational news. Being a mirror of society and a powerful tool to shape public opinion media needs to monitor the professional integrity and ethical standards while publishing or airing any news.
The Indian constitution conferring rights like freedom to speech and expression and freedom of press in article 19(1)(a) to the citizens of a third world country is no less than a blessing. Media really have to make improvements and raise upto the expectations of the public for which it is meant. Thinking of a democracy without free, active and neutral media is like making castles in the air.
Media in possession of tools like discussions, debates, opinion-polls and write ups can only counter-question the state which is definitely an essential to call a society democratic. Media offers a platform for discussions and debates for different causes and finding solutions to the problems of proper legislation and implementation of the laws.
When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions to many dilemmas. When there will be no distribution of power, no rule of law and no accountability there will be only atrocities on weaker ones, corruption, suppression and annoyance.
Hence the media needs to set goals which are convenient to a citizen-friendly democracy. Being the fourth pillar of a democracy its main motive should be to help people make informed decisions instead of filling their vaults with money or making daily & weekly sensationals only then this new era of emerging democracies can survive the dynamics of internal and external complexities.
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