ROLE OF MEDIA IN PROTECTING DEMOCRATIC VALUES IN INDIA
BY SHRISHTI MISHRA
Since the 17th century, the press is being recognized as the Fourth Estate of democracy and a forum for public discussion and debate. Today, Media is respected as a watchdog, as a guardian of the public interest. Media organizations are generally assumed to play an important role in democracies, but how effective are they in performing this function is a matter of study. The power of Media can be used to reinforce democracy. It can be used as an instrument to bridge between governors and the governed.
‘A system of government in which all the people of a country choose and elect their representatives called democracy. Media came into existence in 1780 with the introduction of ‘The Bengal Gazette’ and since then it has matured leaps and bounds. It has been playing a very significant role in shaping human minds and opinions. Democracy is a popular political notion in today’s world, fair and free elections are the prerequisite of democracy, and rule of the law, protection, and freedom of human rights, and supremacy of the constitution are important elements in a truly democratic system. For a democratic country, access to information is essential, freedom to read or write is an important element to expose and reveal the truth, to ensure self-development and self-fulfillment of citizens, and to help ensure participation of citizens in a democracy.
As an instrument Media means communication – whether written, broadcast, or spoken. Generally, the word ‘communication’ is defined as an exchange of information and message. However, Mass Media denote a section of the media especially designed to reach a large audience. Liberated media is an essential part of a functioning democracy. The media has an extraordinary ability to act as a catalyst in society’s efforts to strengthen democratic polity. Mass media in its different forms have influenced human life in many ways. Being the leader over a considerable period of time Print media is still regarded as the authentic medium of mass communication. Apart from providing news and views Radio and Television, have also developed a flair for entertainment. And now the latest form of media named the new media with the internet has indeed made it possible to disseminate information and ideas in real-time across the globe. By airing divergent views and engaging in cross-questioning on significant national and social issues the media reflects and informs public opinion and practically shares the task of the parliament.
Defining Goals Today, the word media is used by the general public in all the spectrums of life. It is not a surprise because no industry has grown, extended, and succeeded as media in the present times. Under the garb of speech and expression, media is now omnipresent, it has invaded all the facets of the life of an individual. This fact is not only applicable to the Indian soils but is global. Not only this, the media has become so powerful that it can make or break the government by influencing the people. The public also heavily depends on the media to secure information. In this scenario, the question of the accountability of powerful media arises. Here we need to understand that We “Public” is the active participant, we are required to shape the role of media because this commanding instrument can use as a boon or a bane too. Media has a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression which can be used as per its whim and wish. Media and Democracy In India however media have developed and emerged as a very powerful and influential tool in all matters. The importance and power of Media can never be denied in democracies; media policies, media content, etc., and media persons have a direct or indirect influence on the audience. Mass Media and Democracy are always related to each other. Media is a mirror of society and how democratic a society is, can be represented through media. Opinion leaders influence the public opinion regarding political leaders and the political system of any country. Hence, media has an influential role in strengthening democracy. Media and democracy have a strong association. Countries that are strong democracies always have resilient and free media. In the role of ‘watchdog’, the media can promote government transparency, accountability, and public scrutiny of decision-makers in power, and by highlighting policy failures, maladministration by public officials, corruption in the judiciary, and scandals in the corporate sector, Media acts as a mirror. The media acts as a strong agency to formulate and organized public opinion. The role of the media as a public forum is vital, media functions as an agenda-setter, providing information about urgent social problems the free press can strengthen the public sphere, by mediating between citizens and the state, facilitating debate about the major issues of the day, and informing the public about their leaders. A good democracy is thus first and foremost a broadly legitimated regime that completely satisfies its citizens (quality in terms of result). Hence to strengthen Democracy, India require to safeguard its citizen first. Media is a tool for social change also. Through promoting programs like the beti bachao, beti padhao, building and maintenance of clean toilets, swach Bharat, saving of water and saving of fuel, etc., that the media is quite successful in promoting the social values and protecting the environment to some extent. The media is also responsible to grant aid, assistance, and help to needy people in the situations like any other catastrophe. The media provides the helplines in cases of adverse contingency. If the channels of communication reflect the social and cultural pluralism within each society, in a fair and impartial balance, then multiple interests and voices are heard in public deliberation. This role is particularly important during election campaigns, as fair access to the airwaves by opposition parties, candidates and groups are critical for competitive, free and fair multiparty elections.
Role of media in bringing social change Earlier the Indian society presumed that women are weaker in terms of earning capacity and physical stamina. The society was patriarchal and hence women were given less importance. Also, gender discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and gender-based violence are some reasons which were prevailing in Indian society. These are some of the main reasons for terrible crimes which used to dominate our country. So the awareness about such problems was communicated to the people by the media. Actually, the information about this heinous crime was provided to the people through television drama, animated news packages, influential radio documentary, and persuasive films. Now government started using media as a platform for eliminating social evils and bringing positive change. Finally, the people reacted positively to it and now the cases of social evils are decreasing. The media as an unbiased informer acts as an educator, as a mentor, as the guardian with the free participation of the public. So unless in a society everyone is equal that society can’t be considered to be a democratic society. It is because equality is one of the essential features of democracy. Promoting equality is actually making an attempt to strengthen democracy. Therefore the media plays a very significant role in strengthening democracy in India.
The importance and role of media in a democratic system is debatable. India has the largest democracy in the world and it is widely accepted that media has a powerful presence in the country. In the current scenario, the Indian media has been subject to a lot of criticism for disregarding its obligation to social responsibility. Perilous commercial practices in media have affected the fabric of Indian democracy. In the race of sustainability and commercial interest transnational media organizations have spread their wings in the Indian market with their own global interests at the cost of truth and accuracy which was initially thought to be an agent of escorting in social change through developmental programs aimed to uplift the weaker section of the society and showcase the truth only. But Extreme coverage or propaganda of sensitive news has led to communal riots at times. Constant repetition of the news, especially sensational news, breeds apathy and insensitivity. Though media has at times successfully played the role of a watchdog of the government activities and has also aided in participatory communication, a lot still needs to be done.