The article explores the credibility of Indian media which is being questioned nowadays more often than not. It speaks about the necessity of a free independent media which is an important aspect of any democratic nation.
India is the largest democracy in the world and is on the verge of toppling China to become the most populous country as well. When we look at such astonishing numbers, one of the many things which pop in a person’s mind is the media establishment of the country.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MEDIA:
Media plays a huge role in the development of a country. It is one of the torchbearer when it comes to exercising the right of “Freedom of Speech & Expression” which is enshrined in our Constitution. The three important pillars of democracy in India are Legislature, Executive & Judiciary; it will not be erroneous to say that the fourth invisible pillar is the media. Media acts as a bridge between the government and the masses and plays an important role in truly maintaining the democratic status of any country as it hold the government accountable for its actions through empowering the general public by providing information.
Press has a totally different role in a democracy than that of a totalitarian government. Democracy functions according to procedure established by the law while in the totalitarian form of government all the major power vests in a hand of a single person or a party. In democracy important decisions regarding the functioning of the country, its relationship with other countries is arrived by discussion and in the latter by dictation. In a democratic form of government press acts as a watchdog on the authority of the government wherein in a totalitarian state it is a puppet in the hands of the authority; in former press compels the people to think towards the action taken by the government and if required to asks questions to the government; while in the latter the masses are made to obey whatever the government decides without questioning the government’s authority, In democracy the press is required to be free as a free press is a hallmark of democratic government, while in the totalitarian state press blindly supports the authoritative government.
Article 19(1)(a) of The Indian Constitution provide the citizen of India with “Freedom of Speech & Expression”. The right provided by the Constitution means that one can openly express his opinions and emotions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. The “Freedom of Speech& Expression” also encapsulates within itself the “Freedom of Press”.
The Supreme Court held that the fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) can be reasonably restricted only for the considerations mentioned
in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified. Supreme Court held that open criticism of government policies and operations is not a ground for restricting expression of freedom of press. Intolerance is an enemy of the democracy as it is of an individual.
Indian media is today in very dire straits, the reason being very simple because the mainstream media is controlled by a very few. According to the report by “Global Press Freedom Index” India ranks 142 out of 180 nations of the world. We rank behind Afghanistan and Sudan. Over the years the situation has worsened because in 2002 India ranked 80 of 139 countries in the world. The Indian media is not only centered in the hands of few power blocs in the big cities but it also has a deep and profound impact on the 70% of our population residing in the villages who are many a times fed with untrue and misguiding facts by the regional channels in the local language which are then very poorly construed.
Here are some of the instances when the Indian media’s credibility and the quality of the content were questioned:
When the Pulwama attack took place on 14th Feb 2019 the whole media started a campaign where they were hell bent upon convincing the government to retaliate upon Pakistan rather than finding the actual reason behind how a person was able to unleash the wrath of 350kg of explosives on the armed forces in one of the heavily armed terrain in the world.
During the Tablighi Jamaat incident of 2020 where almost 4000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were found, many primetime channels started showing a particular video a few Muslim men are seen licking the utensils and were claimed to be spreading the virus after an extensive research it was found that the video was of 2018 long before the outbreak of the virus and it was a ritual practiced by the “Bohra” community so that no food is wasted and is being followed for many years, but instead this video was used to spread communal hatred and to add fuel to the already worsening circumstances.
Sushant Singh Rajput, the famous Bollywood actor was found dead on 14th June 2020, just few minutes after the actor was found dead, there was a reporter of a famous news channel at his father’s house seeking an interview from a person whose son has died under mysterious circumstances and who is completely distraught. It shows to what level the Indian media can stoop just to increase their viewership. We all are very well aware about what mockery they have made of the dead and the investigation just to increase their TRP.
The states of Assam, Bihar and Megahalaya are affected with floods during this pandemic. 107 people have died while almost 50 lakhs have been affected, but our media house have some more important work than increasing the coverage of these floods which hit the above said areas almost every year.
When the Rs.2000 note was introduced after the demonetization there was a false claim started on the Internet where it was claimed that the note has a chip inside it which can be tracked and can still be tracked if the note is buried 120 meter below the ground, it seems a ludicrous and a laughable claim on the face of it but some of the major media houses got so interested hearing about such claim that without any proper investigation and research of their own they broadcasted it on their channels.
Many of the prominent news channels are owned/controlled by big corporate houses that have political ties with the government in power, which thus eventually influences the affects the quality of the news which is broadcasted by the news channels. Sometimes the news which is broadcasted is nothing but an act of propaganda by the political parties catered by the news channels. A sting operation of major media houses in 2018 confirmed many claims regarding paid journalism. During the sting operation many news channels and popular media establishment agreed to the claims of paid journalism and even cause communal disharmony for the sake of money.
Even if a certain aspect of above mentioned incident is true then it is very serious threat to our fundamental right of “Freedom of Speech & Expression” and also to our country’s “Secular” character about which we are all very proud of.
The above mentioned examples and the figures given by the ‘Global Press freedom Index’ clearly show that our media is headed in the wrong direction. A free, honest and an objective media is the need of the hour whose sole goal should be to present the masses with the true happenings around the world, while also maintaining its independence and authority by not bowing down to pressures from any political parties or profit oriented business houses. The media establishment in our country shouldn’t forget the fact that they are the means through which the masses are informed about the functioning, policy making and the true nature of the government. An independent media is also very important for the smooth functioning of our democracy as it will ensure that the government is being kept a close eye upon while also ensuring maximum participation of the masses in the decision making of the government which will eventually ensure the safety of many fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
4. The Constitution of India ( Dr. B.R. Ambedkar)
Author: Rohan Bhishikar
RTMNU's Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Law (Main Branch), Nagpur