(Sample Material) SSC CGL (Tier -3) Study Kit "Essay - "Responsibility of media in a democracy"

Sample Materials of SSC CGL (Tier -3) Study Kit

Subject: Essay

Topic: Responsibility of media in a democracy

In a democratic setup Media occupies the most vital position and forms the very bedrock of democracy without which democracy is an aimless, futile exercise and never fulfill the aspirations of the people in real terms. The role of media in a democracy is as crucial as that of the politicians and should never be underestimated. To bring out before the public nothing but the truth in all matters without twisting the facts and should never be afraid of anyone except God is the first and foremost job of the media. If a democracy is to run smoothly in any country, it is a must that the media in all fairness should be given full autonomy and a free hand it deserves in airing its views among the people and no unnecessary restrictions should be imposed on it. The media also on its part should play a very responsible, active and neutral role in discharging its duties without being influenced by any particular political party or few individuals and should treat everyone on a equal footing.

The word ‘democracy’ is derived from the Greek word ‘demos- meaning - people and ‘cracy’ which means—rule. Thus democracy literally signifies ‘the rule of the people’. In Abraham Lincoln’s famous word-”democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. So democracy as a form of government implies that the ultimate authority of government is vested in the common people, that public policy is made to conform to the will of the people and to serve the interests of the people. Today we have indirect or representative democracy where government is conducted by the representatives of the people, who are elected at regular intervals through elections.

Effective democracy requires principles and working institutions. The institutions of democracy are said to be basically six in number. They are legislature, elected at regular intervals by adult universal suffrage. There must be political parties with coherent policies and capable alone, or in conjunction with other parties for carrying out a consistent policy and programmes for the peoples all round development and not only those who may have voted for them. There must be an executive, staffed with civil servants who are politically neutral. There must be independent legal system and lastly there must be a free media ­both print and electronic. No democracy can succeed without a strong and effective opposition. Strong opposition exercise a healthy restraint on the ruling party and prevents it from subjecting the people to arbitrary and despotic rule, sometimes the media acts like an opposition in the absence of strong opposition in a country.

Underlying principle of democracy is freedom i.e. freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement etc. From these fundamental freecel11s arise the freedom of mass media and communication. Democracy provides ample freedom for mass media which includes print and electronic- media and now a new dimension which is added it that of internet. India is one of the largest participatory democracy and at the same time having a powerful mass media. Media plays a crucial role in effective working of democracy. It is the sole means through which public opinion is generated. It is regarded as fourth estate in the effective working of parliamentary democracy. Since media enjoys considerable power, there of course arises the question of responsibility because every power has its corresponding- responsibilities, limitations and accountability. As Sir Acton has rightly said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Especially in a democracy where media enjoys sufficient freedom, responsibility become- all most important.

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Democracy rules out the use of force. It is based on the recognition of the worth of man as man, implying widest possible opportunity of development of everyone. Since no two human beings can ever think alike, it is natural to come across dissenting opinions at every step, in every field. True democratic spirit lies in overcoming dissent through discussion and persuasion and not through coercion. In a democracy, views are not imposed, views are shaped and moulded. Democracy inculcates among the people the habit of tolerance and compromise and teaches them to show due regard for the opinions and sentiments others. The media gives a platform for this divergent view’s which filters and then a commonly acceptable opinion or view emerges.

It plays an important role to uphold the principles of sovereignty, secularism, equality, rule of law, justice which is enshrined in our constitution. Important issues of local, national and international affairs are discussed and debated by the media. It provides information of multi Carious types be it news, reviews, literature, art, culture, business, films, entertainment, religion, law, society etc. We are living in globalised world where key to know the world is information and information, not just generated within the country but anywhere in the world, with the emergence of knowledge based societies and world economies being so interlinked’ with one another any event happening in one part can have inpact on the world’s economy hence a greater dependence on mass media to keep individual and countries connected to the world.

Democracy presumes social equality. Disparities in wealth are a great threat to democracy. A country in which a large number of people remain in abject poverty while a handful of them have plenty to spare cannot run efficient democratic institutions. Similarly communalism, regionalism, caste and class distinctions can wreck a democracy. If a democratic government does not eliminate social distinctions and provide equal opportunities to all, it is bound to be overthrown sooner or later. The media high lights these disparities and petty distinctions amongst the citizen, thereby help in minimising their ill effects.

Democracy also requires not merely an absence of ignorance but also that the citizens are adequately educated. If knowledge remains scanty, fragmentary and confined to narrow circles and if the mass of humanity remains steeped in ignorance and error, there can be no prospects for the success of democracy. What is needed is to bring scientific knowledge to the doors of all, to universalise culture, to train the mind and to create the scientific temper. Education makes citizens vigilant and also gives them the boldness to criticize government measures which are ill-conceived or harmful. In fact, education produces wise leadership and an enlightened and alert public. Here again the media helps in the spead of knowledge and information to the people.

The opinion of the people regarding the working of the government as well as their reaction to government policies is crucial to the success or failure of a government in a democracy. Therefore, no government can ignore the opinion of the people who bring it to power. Public opinion keeps a check on the government and helps it in determining its policies.

If media does not discharge its responsibility independently in any democratic country, the politicians are bound to behave like dictations or even worse than them. As Benito Mussolini had once rightly said, “Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical and destructive than one, if he be a tyrant”. It is the fear of being exposed by the media before the public that most of the politicians keep themselves under control to some extent. Media has a very big role to play in a democracy and its stature is in no way less than that of politicians. Hence it is rightly called the fourth Pillar of democracy i.e. Fourth Estate. It is through media that people become aware of so many aspects of life of which they are normally ignorant. Democracy is meaningless without a free, neutral and active media. So media carries with it a huge responsibility in a democratic setup which it has to fulfill very carefully without any bias toward anyone by bringing out the real facts before the public.

The media must be free under any circumstances of a democracy is to function smoothly but certainly this freedom should not be misused by it at the cost of the people. The media can be free only if it dares to differ with the Government on such issue on which it strongly feels that Government has taken a wrong stand rather than singing and praising always the stand taken by the Government. The media should no doubt always show us nothing but the very truth. At the same time it should also care for the sentiments of the people and should take extra precautions to ensure that the news given by it does not create panic among the people or increase the communal tensions. There is no doubt that media has done a commendable job from time to time in making people aware about the harsh realities of life, in exposing corruption prevalent in our society, in increasing the awareness level among the people and a lot more but I feel that still a lot remains to be done.

Media is becoming increasingly popular among people from all walks of life and it certainly has the potential of influencing the thoughts of its readers/Viewers to a large extent. Media Should, no doubt, be neutral in airing views but it should also strongly desist from airing such views which can adversely affect the communal harmony and give rise to deep suspicion, tension and senseless violence which leads to killing innocent people. The media should make the people aware of the consequences of the various actions of the governments. It is the media which plays a major role in making a politician hero or Zero. So utmost neutrality is required on the part of media to observe and it must give publicity only to those politicians who are committed to the welfare of the poor and underprivileged and who really deserve it. It is the duty of the media to make sure that it is not partial towards any particular political party or an individual and gives free and fair opinion to the people without having any bias towards anyone.

It should never hesitate is unmasking before public the real faces of corrupt politicians and corrupt people without any fear and in disclosing corrupt practices prevalent in Government machinery but at the same time it should also bring before the pubic the good work done by the Government. If media is honest and committed in its job, democracy is bound to function more efficiently and the loopholes present in any democratic system can certainly be plugged to the fullest satisfaction of the people. On the contrary, if media is biased, corrupt and favours only a particular party or few individuals, it can prove to be very dangerous for the smooth functioning of democracy. No one can become perfect and one can only strive to become so. The same holds true for our media also. Certainly there is still a lot of scope for improvement by which the media can rise upon the aspirations of the people for which it is primarily meant.

Role of Print and Electronic Media

The print media which includes newspapers. periodicals and magazines, and the electronic media which includes radio and television and cinema help out greatly in the formation of public opinion. Newspapers are probable the most effective and commonly used means to influence the public opinion. News magazines and periodicals also help in forming public opinion by publishing articles on major national and international issues. The media acts as a kind of liaison between the government and the people. It acquaints the people with the policy and principles of the government. At the same time it reflects the public reaction to this policy and thus enables the government to modify it. Since the media gives such extensive publicity to the movements of the ministers and other higher ups, it exercises a very sobering influence on them. It does not let them forget that they are in office as the representatives of the people to whom they are finally answerable. Thus, it keeps a powerful check on the corruption and tyranny of the government. Perhaps the most important function of the media in a democratic government is to spread political awareness among the public. An average citizen has neither capability, nor the will, nor even the time to formulate and express original opinions on most of the issues. He seeks guidance from the newspaper magazines etc., he subscribes to. ‘t he observations he makes in the circle of his friends with flourish he has perhaps borrowed from that day’s editorial in his favourite newspaper or magazine. Thus the media has a definite educative value. The success of democracy depends upon the judicious use of one’s vote which is impossible without political education and the media is the most effective source available to us for this type of education. This place a great responsibility upon the editors, the correspondents and the professional reviewers of a newspaper to furnish us with authentic news and impartial views only.

Indian media shows a mosaic picture. Many of the issues discussed’ and shown on the news channel are not only irrelevant but are blown out of proportion. With emphasis on unnecessary issues, real issues generally get buried. News channels are generally driven by TRP’s rather than issues. They try to scandalize the issue to generate public curiosity. Instead of breaking news they are actually making news and then breaking it. The channels trivialize the issue and set bad precedence. It makes icons out of Rakhi Sawant and the likes .One of the channel shows regularly story of ‘Bhoot’ coming to village which reinforces superstition among people. Media is now being used by people to get instant attention from the public. Controversies are created every morning demolished the same evening just to make a new controversy next day. Under this whole hue and cry the real issues take back seat. Same is the case with the print media many of the newspapers carry the most irrelevant news on their front page. Yellow journalism has become the order of day. This has given rise to new culture of Page3 journalism which exclusively covers the elite parties and thoroughly discusses them the next day. Media houses generally absolves of their responsibility by saying that they show what people want. But actually it is the media that first set the trends create demands and people fell prey to it. A line need to be drawn somewhere.

Well there is other side of the coin. There are few responsible news channels and newspapers, how so ever, their numbers are limited. They do reflect what is called as meaningful journalism. They cover issues of public importance generating awareness among people at the same time bringing to states’s notice various issues of concern. Journalism can play important role I to curb social evils and find solutions to problems. Many newspapers ignore. Issues pertaining to rural India like poverty, lack of education, health services etc. Covering such issues can bring fundamental change as this would bring fourth common concern not from government machinery but from citizens of civil society at large. There are stories of some news channel where their effective intervention into a issue has brought government machinery to act. The recent initiative by a news channel in Jessica Lal murder case actually made the court to reseek the issue and change the decision. Similarly issues concerning needs of common citizens like bad infrastructure, corruption, government apathy can be brought to light by the media. Media has also created greater concern among citizens on’ issues concerning justice, human rights violation, social evils etc.

Working of democracy lies on the premise of electing representatives and how free and fair these elections are. Come elections media frenzy grabs the whole country. Media coverage has brought greater awareness among people about the respective candidates from their constituency. Earlier municipal/district elections went just unnoticed but now due to local newspapers and local news channels it generates lot of public participation. Another dimension that is added to media is the internet though it is not as far reaching as the other ones yet it has emerged as new platform especially in the globalised world. The novel idea of blogs and websites like ‘You Tube’ which provides freedom to individual to upload video clippings, news etc or to start forms to debate on. Any issue has brought greater power in the hands of an individual to share and present their views on global forum. Yet this unfettered power sometimes creates malaise and hurt public sentiments.

The Credibility and Objectivity of Media

The credibility and objectivity of media coverage of the communal disturbances in Gujarat became the subject of sharp controversy in last year. While much of it centred on television coverage, the print media was also involved. However, after an investigation by a fact finding team appointed by the Editors Guild of India. it was absolved of the charge of biasness. It found that “prompt and extensive portrayal of the untold horrors visited on innocent people in the wake of the Godhra Carnage”, and exposed “the supine if not complicity attitude of the State and manifest out pourings of communal hatred stirred the conscience of the nation compelled remedial action...:’ The Guild also found two local Gujarati papers guilty of provoking anti-Muslim feelings.

For the electronic media the issue about the ethics and excesses of television coverage were raised. And once again there was censorship on the national broadcaster. with the debate in Parliament on a censure motion in Gujarat not being aired live on Doordarshan. The media’s coverage of the Gujarat assembly election totally went against their predictions, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendrabhai Modi won a two third majority though it was predicted that the BJP would not win the election or win it with thin majority.

Conclusion

All this put great responsibility on the media The media should report impartially on the events and happenings of the nation and not resort to bias reporting’s and images, it democracy is to be successful in India. Since the media—both the print media and the electronic have so much responsibility in the functioning of democracy and to well being of the nation it follows that the media should be more responsible. There is very subtle line that decides what is good or bad, moral/immoral. Yet these are questions which are very crucial to journalism. Freedom of press does not connote that they can do anything in the name of freedom. This may have serious implications for the society and nation at large. It is said that during riots the fire may just occurs once but on news channels it occurs for 24 hrs. It is said that cure for evils of democracy is more democracy similarly cure for evils of media is not to curb its freedom but to make it more responsible.

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