Media’s upheaval and Constructive Democracy in India
In a democratic country like India, along with the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, Media is taken as the ‘Fourth Pillar’. Media plays an essential role in the democratic lives of the citizens of the country as it keeps people informed about their Socioeconomic conditions and Political affairs. Media brings public attention on a various serious matter that is important to be done with and tries to project before us an analysis of events that are happening around, writes Tahiruzzama and Shujat Kidwai
Infotainment, by this media, serves information in a system that accumulates entertainment along with education. The role of journalists is to inform, educate, stand as the voice of the people and fill the gap between people and the government of the country. While there is a need for a journalism of different genres, News journalism has a critical role to play. A journalist has to be the vocal that mediates between the People and the Government. Agendas must be set by journalists which led to essential issues to be discussed and decisions make to help People’s demands of justice and welfare. While it has been doing that for many years, now the times and patterns have changed.
What is Journalism?
Impartial production and circulation of reports and information on the present or past happening based on data’s, facts and supported with evidence or proofs. The word journalism addresses the occupational system, as well as journalists who collect and publish impartial news based on facts or data and are supported with evidence or proof. These media include the internet, radio, television, print, and, in the past times, newsreels. Journalism is a type of writing that tells people about things that really happened and that they might not have known about already.
Journalism is highly noble and professional. Journalists must understand their role and it is much better to entertain a smaller pay package and peace of mind than bow to a bigger pay package and divert the minds of millions of Indians and fellow citizens who depend on media for information. Journalism plays a consequential execution in protecting democratic values. Although presently under attack, it is crucial to understand the role of the fourth estate and the mechanism of journalistic accountability. Stimulating our views on what objective journalists do in writing a story is very important, along with keeping in mind the importance of putting the public good above everything else.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “one of the objects of a newspaper is to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it, another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments, and the third is the fearlessness to expose popular defects.”
Unlike the United States, In India, Journalists have no special rights. Unlike the United States, freedom of the press in the country does not emerge from any amendment or special provision to the Constitution, but from the right to free speech and expression. Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution makes this right subject only to reasonable restrictions specified in Article 19(2). Under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, there is no special provision for freedom of the press, and what is clearly highlighted there is only freedom of speech and expression.
In the Constituent Assembly Debates. It was made clear by Dr. B.R Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly Debate, that no need for the special mention of the freedom of the press at all as the press and an individual or a citizen were the same as far as their right of expression was concerned.
However, the freedom of the press is not absolute, just as the freedom of expression is not. Public Interest must be safeguard by article 19(1)(2) which lays down reasonable limitations to the freedom of expression in matters affecting:
a. Sovereignty and integrity of the State
b. Security of the State
c. Friendly relations with foreign countries
d. Public order
e. Decency and morality
f. Contempt of court
h. Incitement to an offense
Under sections 499, 500, 501, and 502 of the Indian Penal Code it is prescribed two-year jail imprisonment for anyone found guilty of defamation “via text, speech, or visuals” and under section 66 of Indian Information Technology Act (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2009) extends the sentence to three years of imprisonment and adds social media in the practice of defamatory means.
under IPC sections 505 (2) for statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred, or ill-will between classes and 153 (A) for promoting enmity between different religious groups shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
Freedom of Press
Kuldip Nayar, an expert in journalism wrote to Mrs. Indra Gandhi soon after she imposed the emergency, “if the newspaper has criticized the government, it is largely because of its sluggish administration, slow progress in the economy field and the gap between promise and performance. My concept of a free press is to ferret out the truth and let the public know.” The same view of freedom of holding opinions without interference has been taken by the Supreme Court in Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms in which the Court has observed as follows: (SCC p. 317, para 38) “One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation, and non-information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. … Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions”.
India’s journalism and media’s upheaval in the past few years
Without accountability towards the citizens of this nation, currently, mainstream media is serving the ruling regime with malice and hatred. This catastrophe of Indian media is penning a new history that applauds the annihilation of analytical journalism with constant manufactured and cooked opinion with zero accountability. Propaganda in media is quite congenial to its operation but this bareness of representing the ruling’s voice against the truth is killing Indian democracy all in the name of freedom of the press. This exigency has ceased to become cancer now. News Anchors like Arnab Goswami, Sudhir Chaudhary, Anjana om Kashyap, Rubika Liyaquat, Deepak Chaurasia, Suresh Chavhanke, Amish Devgan, and many main-stream anchors have become Judge and pass their judgment and promote hatred shamelessly without any ethical consideration. This new history is making people consumers than citizens whose only job is to remain an inactive entity. It is eroding India’s democratic values. News has lost its significance and the precedency is shifted from people to serve the ruling regime and what is more serious is that its supported business houses that control and set the agenda, all in the name of freedom of the press.
Adverse role of Journalism as a road blocker
The prime role of any independent media is to have that fact-finding eagerness but this self-declared protector of the free press has become a road blocker of the facts. Stereotyping is not constant it’s an operational process and its objective is to construct a myth. These media houses have sold their reasoning power to distinguish its truths from their errors. Hatred and malice have become India’s latest religion and fake news is a day-by-day ritual. Media houses are penning a wrong history by spreading cooked news as gospels. Mischievous observation and static disinformation have been affecting a larger section of Indian society.
Lies and fried news circulate faster than truth ones and the use of social media university has become an important source of recycling fake news coming from these mainstream media. There is a constant exercise of changing the Indian public into an inactive consumer by spreading malice in the name of a free press but deep within there is extremism and orthodoxy, a body of ideas which think that people accept without any type of counter questioning.
In the year 2020, World Press Freedom Index ranks India at 142nd out of 180 countries behind nations like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Nepal this Press freedom in India cannot be correctly computed by comical and blemished rankings. With serious accountability towards the citizens of this nation, mainstream media journalists must serve and mediate between people and the government regime without any malice and hatred.
- Tahiruzzama and Shujat Kidwai are law students from ALIGARH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY