Freedom of Media

Published: 2021-08-17 07:30:07
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Category: Freedom

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Freedom of the press and journalistic ethics is an important topic today in India — with the word ‘press’ encompassing the electronic media also. There should be a serious discussion on the topic. That discussion should include issues of the responsibilities of the press, since the media have become very prominent and very powerful. In India, freedom of the press has been treated as part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, vide Brij Bhushan and Another vs.
The State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 129 and Sakal Papers (P) Ltd vs. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, among others. However, as mentioned in Article 19(2), reasonable restrictions can be placed on this right, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Hence, freedom of the media is not an absolute freedom.
The importance of the freedom of the press lies in the fact that for most citizens the prospect of personal familiarity with newsworthy events is unrealistic. In seeking out news, the media therefore act for the public at large. It is the means by which people receive free flow of information and ideas, which is essential to intelligent self-governance, that is, democracy. For a proper functioning of democracy it is essential that citizens are kept informed about news from various parts of the country and even abroad, because only then can they form rational opinions.
A citizen surely cannot be expected personally to gather news to enable him or her to form such opinions. Hence, the media play an important role in a democracy and serve as an agency of the people to gather news for them. It is for this reason that freedom of the press has been emphasised in all democratic countries, while it was not permitted in feudal or totalitarian regimes. In India, the media have played a historical role… Ripples and dominoes, that is the order of the world today… Everything is nterconnected and interdependent, an incident anywhere in the world can have adverse consequences anywhere else, our economies, our social structure, the very ideas and beliefs we use to identify ourselves are part of a functional global village. And THAT, is the reason why, in our interconnected world, it isn’t diamonds and jewels that are most valuable… its ‘information. ’ We seek information, awareness, and most importantly, a semblance of ‘truth’ about the things we face daily.
Luckily for us, we have a way that provides us all that, something we collectively call ‘the media’. But, unluckily, as with most things of value, it is prone to exploitation. By the marketers and PR managers working for the commercialist culture or even the governments that like to ‘control’ public viewpoint by being spoon-fed their own political or commercial agendas. To inform the consciences of millions of individuals and help shape their thinking can never really be a ‘neutral’ task.
It requires a determination of media owners, editors and journalists to discharge their duties in a manner that balances commercial imperatives, human rights, social responsibility and national vision. It is unfortunate and disheartening that our media is notorious for processing and filtering the actual truth in many events, creating a distorted reflection that condenses innuendo, gossip, lies, rumors, speculations and suspicions into a form of entertainment, character assassination, scandal or simply packaged as a commercial product that deceives us and we don’t ever even suspect.
It’s ironic that all this is being done by the media which is fully aware of its constitutional responsibility as a guardian of democracy and watchdog of the people. In the 21st century, media has evolved into an institution with overwhelming power… the power to shape entire generations’ viewpoints.

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