“I would rather have a completely free press with all the
dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated press.”
So said our 1st Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Like all the ideals & dreams of our erstwhile great leaders, this too has met a cruel fate.
The Indian media has no doubt carved a niche for itself & reserves a strong hold on the public. The concept of freedom as demarcated by the Indian Constitution in Art.19(1)(a) that gives us Freedom of Speech & Expression, has been thoroughly utilized by the media. I refrain from saying mis-utilized, as the debate about the alleged misuse of freedom by media is still an open discussion.
Let’s give the Indian Media a fair trial:
The modern tech-savvy media is accused of being meddlesome. It seems to turn up in all the wrong places, at the wrong times & speak volumes on all topics having first labeled them as “Breaking News”. No matter what you do-turn on the TV, tune in to radio or surf the internet, you can’t escape the news onslaught.
This information overload puts a question mark on the credibility and the professionalism of the media. The pressure of increasing TRPs of their news channels seems to be the fuel that propels the journalists to indulge in cut-throat competition to grab first hand news. In this race the relevance of the news they are covering and the manner in which they are telecast, is lost.
24X7 news channels running updates on the “Breaking News” repeatedly flaunt their “exclusive” videos footage or interview every random person who is willing, to give their valued opinion on the topic. Is this true journalism? When airing news about a victim, do they really have to show footage of the victim’s parents or relatives moaning in grief? It seems that media has forgotten about the humanistic approach that needs to be taken when telecasting news.
The manner in which the media had meddled in the 26/11 attacks, telecasting strategic positioning of the commandos is just one glaring example of their folly.
The latest trick to increase TRP! Sting operations are carried out left, right & center throwing concerns about protection of privacy to the air. A sting operation is rightly carried out by a law-enforcement officer & a member of public who has willingly assented to help trap the criminal. The media however has pinned on the police badge & is now the new crusader of law.
This however compromises the reputation of many, and has brought many careers crashing to ground. Like the recent case of a Bollywood B-grade star. Cases like Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others & Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Another, have finally lead to the inclusion of the Right to privacy as an integral part of the Right to personal liberty under the humanistic expansion of the Art21 of the Constitution. Let’s see if this turns out to be just another Right that the press ignores.
Free Press Vs. Fair Trial:
The concept of ‘Janta Adalat’ has lead to a serious conflict between free press & fair trial by the judiciary.
Indian media leaves no stone unturned in its quest for gripping news. And what better news to grab viewership than an on going trial?
The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India are meant to protect the right of a citizen to have a fair trial i.e. a trial uninfluenced by extraneous pressures. But the realm of aggressive journalism has severely compromised this right.
Instances of media uncovering ‘evidences’ & prejudicing the public opinion are not new. This leads to serious miscarriage of justice. In their relentless investigations & publicizing of the same, they spare neither the seasoned criminal nor the innocent victim. Both their images are splashed in their channels. Even the witnesses & the kit & kin of the victims are not spared. Witness protection is seriously endangered and so is the likability of the victim ever returning to normal life.
Now for the good acts:
The media may bias justice, it may broadcast senseless news for hours on end, but one thing that cannot be denied is that media forms the 4th wheel of the Indian democracy. With a secular state like ours with varied beliefs & traditions, a strong & independent media can mobilize us for the right cause.
The true spirit of journalism is showcased in instances such as the Bofors case and the HDW (Howaldswerske) marine case. Through media only the case of Narasimha Rao bribing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs, was revealed. Sting operations carried in the right spirit had resulted in the success of Operation Duryodhana in which MPs were caught taking bribe to raise questions in the Parliament. Similarly the Tehelka case had led the CBI to file a chargesheet against those who took the bribe.
As observed by the Delhi High Court in the Bofors case, the media plays a vital role in making the public aware of what is happening in their country. It can be rightly said that media is instrumental in making people aware of their rights & freedoms.
Moreover by telecasting such news media is in a way reducing the crime rate as more & more people disapprove of criminal behavior. As such it also facilitates public discussions on important issues.
Every Right or Freedom has its boundaries & cannot be adjudged as absolute in any manner. While exercising one’s right it should be kept in mind that one shouldn’t encroach on another’s freedom. The media needs to be self-regulatory & humanitarian in its approach to the way it treats news. Only then the concept of Free Press can be realized.
As of now the conclusion can’t be drawn. I believe in giving the media a second chance in proving its mettle in the true spirit of journalism. What remains to be seen is whether media continues to indulge in responsible & professional journalism or the craving for TRPs & viewership rides over the right to freedom of press.
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