Need for formidable and unfettered media

By Parmanand Pandey

Among the many roles that the media has to play is the building of a just and egalitarian society with emphasis to inclusive growth. It has not only to serve as the mirror of society-be it good, bad, ugly or beautiful as is often stated by some people. It has to see that the perpetrators of atrocities on weak and humble do not go scot-free, that the corruption is banished, if not completely at least in good measure, that iniquitous administration of justice and governance and distribution of wealth is got rid of, that the gender bias is removed etc.
It may be recalled that the Press played a remarkable role during the freedom struggle. After independence every thing changed radically. Technology rightly got the place of pride. The shape and presentation of the news and views got metamorphosed. Television and Internet appear to be ultimate revolution but it will continue to amaze as this is an on-going process. One gets awestruck with virtually mind-blowing changes. Such changes brought about courtesy science and technologies are always welcome.

Here, however, the question remains, how for the media has been able to achieve its cardinal goal of improving the lot of the people? Why there is so much cynicism among the people about the media. There can be hardly any doubt that media is a sine qua non in a democratic set up. It is unthinkable to have a democratic system without free media. Robust democracy ensures free media and vice versa.

It will be pertinent mention here that there has not been seen any devastating famine in India after independence, thanks to free and watchful media. It has always kept the government on toes as and when such situations arose. Recently there have been some deaths of farmers particularly in Maharashtra. But visualise a scene if media had not been free and vigilant. The death toll of scores of farmers would have gone unnoticed and the government must have remained sleeping. However, the sustained reporting of suicides of farmers in print and electronic media kept the government alert and careful forcing her to swing into action to save the lives of precariously placed farmers.
Media has done laudable works during natural calamities; be it floods or droughts or earthquakes. The promptness of media reporting of such matters brought Godspeed in the relief and rescue operations.

Many sting operations that were carried out particularly by the electronic media have rendered yeoman service in cleansing the society. Nobody could have thought of any action to be taken against corrupt Members of Parliament if they had not been caught on TV cameras taking money for asking questions in Parliament.

Believe it not, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats shudder to take bribes not because their hearts have been changed but because of the fear of the media. Let me hasten add, this does not mean that the bribery has been rooted out; in fact, it has increased at many places but it is no longer as openly and blatantly as it used to be in the pre-TV days. Needless to say, Media has significantly awakened the people against the social evils like; dowry, child marriage, bride burning, fossilised caste-ism or religious bigotry. What the police and administration have failed to do, that has commendably been done by vigilant media to curb and control the communal riots and fake encounters. Only two decades ago when media was not so strong the police used to often resort to barbaric methods but that has been reduced to a large extent and the credit must be given to Media only for its salubrious impact. Having said it all, it will be virtually losing sight of the fact that the media has also played very negative and destructive roles. It has done incalculable damage to some innocent people, in particular and also to the society in general with its nonchalant, irresponsible, callous and apathetic behaviour. Uma Khuran’s case is a glaring example. The image of the poor school teacher was tarnished beyond repair due to irresponsible media.

Kargil war was perhaps the first war that was fought in media glaze. It had the desired effect on the psyche of the people. Armed forces were praised, honoured and awarded across the board primarily because of the media. The feeling of patriotism and nationalism overpowered the people. But on the other hand it during the Kandhar crisis its role was very negative. The media had, for all practical purposes, capitulated the government of India forcing her to take the shameful decision of surrendering the hardened terrorists for securing the release of 198 passengers and crews of the hijacked plane IC 814. The accusations made by some people against media persons of indulging into blackmailing are also not without weight and substance. The media must look into it without inviting any interference from the Government.

The last two decades have seen the immense growth of media during the last two decades. And in the days to come, it will, undoubtedly, become more formidable. It is in the interest of the society that the media remains absolutely free from the shackles of the unscrupulous and selfish business houses as well as blackmailing journalists. It is not exaggeration to say that the formidable and unfettered media will enormously help in building the healthy society and a strong nation than all other constitutionally recognised organs of the State put together.