Role of Media in a democracy – Expectation Vs Reality

Since past few months, I have been seeing a lot of hate pouring on social media against the Indian media and how journalism has reached it’s all time low. I thought that they might realise their mistakes and improve after seeing the angst amongst the masses. But when instead of improving, it started getting worse, I realised that the media houses are not at fault here. I felt a pang of pity when i figured out what their problem is. They practically have no clue what journalism or rather “ethical journalism” is or what exactly is their role and responsibility in a democracy, especially when it is the largest democracy in the world. So I thought we need to go back to the basics. May be they need a little help and so today we will discuss Role of Media in a democracy- Expectation Vs Reality. Let’s begin…

First of all let’s revisit something we studied in school. What exactly is a Democracy?
Democracy, as defined by wikipedia, is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. This is one of the strongest forms of governing systems in the world standing on the backs of 4 pillars:
1) Parliament
2) Prime Minister
3) People
4) Press (Media)

All these pillars are interdependent and if we observe closely we will notice that the fourth pillar i.e our beloved media plays the most prominent role in shaping this system we call democracy. Let’s understand how.
In an ideal world, media helps people form an opinion by presenting them with facts. This information and facts help people, the third pillar of a democratic system, frame an opinion on the social as well as political issues and choose their candidates basis that, thus affecting the 1st and the 2nd pillar i.e the parliament and the prime minister in turn.
Hence it is very crucial for a democracy to have a strong and democratic media network that shares accurate and authenticated information.

So let’s list down the expectations of a democracy from the media system and then tally it with it’s actual state in today’s India

1. Expectation:

• Firstly, media is supposed to help people form their own opinions based on facts. They should neither form opinions on people’s behalf nor should they influence the masses’ opinion. Their sole purpose is to keep people updated on the recent events with verified facts and information so as to prevent misinformation.

• Secondly, the media isn’t an investigation body and so it is not authorised to investigate into any issues whatsoever. Also they are not allowed to make any judgements basis these investigations. A democracy has specific agencies to do that and that needs to be respected. How efficiently they handle it is not the topic of discussion here.

• Thirdly, media is supposed to pass on the information to people as received and not their interpretation of the information.

• Lastly, media is not supposed to drive any agenda, either in favor or in opposition of any political party, group or an individual irrespective of their actions. Also media is not supposed to invade the privacy of any individual irrespective of their social status.
Now let’s have a look at how efficiently is the Indian Media contributing to the success of it’s democratic system.

2. Reality in India:

• Today in India, we do not need any investigative and judiciary system as the media has recently taken up their role as well. I am surprised by the level of their operational independence. They pick up an event, investigate, find evidences, present it to themselves and then give a verdict. Managing all this single handedly must be really challenging. Kudos!!

• Almost all media houses are driving propogandas and are thus highly opinionated and biased. For instance, a year or so ago, a leading newspaper had published an article against the ammended traffic rules and penalties wherein they worried about how the poor traffic rules offenders will afford such huge penalties. I was like really??I had written a detailed blog on this then. (http://nikswit.com/2019/09/09/motor-vehicle-acts-amendment-2019-reactions-vs-reality/)

• They do not respect the privacy of any individual and they have proved this by forcefully entering people’s private properties and ganging up on common people like postmen and delivery boys. No wonder Indian Media was banned in Nepal post the massive earthquakes in 2015.

• The information thrown at people is random, unorganised and many a times unverified. There have been times when people were declared dead by certain media houses and they later realised it was not true. This shows the extent of verification and authentication a piece of information goes through. It is just about who airs it first rather than who airs it right. This shows the level of responsibility.

• When I say the information is random and unorganised, I hope we all remember Riya Chakrobarty’s daily schedule in the jail. I don’t think this information is in any way relevant or required.

Media is a double edged sword and needs to be handled very carefully. It has the power to take down the entire system (not just the government) if not used properly and this can be lethal. People have started loosing faith in media thus weakening the entire system.

It is high time that the Press Council of India (PCI) intervenes and issue strict directives with respect to conduct of the news agencies and newspapers while improving the standards of journalism in India inorder to strengthen the largest democracy of the world.

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