By Khyati Relan
India is a vibrant democracy and the fourth estate is assuredly an imperative part of it. Media is the fourth estate of democracy as it creates awareness about the social-economical and political events in society. Media outlets have an enormous impact and influence over the political will and it is the watchdog of potential delinquency done by the politicians under the cover of power. It is an informative bridge between governing bodies and the general public. But unfortunately, accountability and transparency of media are converted into a lucrative business. Media misuses its freedom thus tends to establish despotism over the mind of the people. Social media platforms enable their users to publish their thoughts and beliefs directly vitiates the authenticity of the published matter thus misleads the readers. Media has a hidden political agenda which tries to mould and influence public opinion.
Media plays a significant role in shaping the human mind. Media has an enormous impact and influence on the society. Freedom to write is the important element to ensure self-development and self-fulfillment of the citizen so that citizens could participate freely in the democracy. The media has an extraordinary ability to act as a catalyst in society, it is a shield to all prerequisite of democracy like rule of law, freedom of human rights, free and fair elections etc. Nowadays Social media has made it possible to propagate information and ideas across the globe. It acts as a watchdog as it promotes government transparency, accountability, and public scrutiny of decision-makers in power, and by highlighting political failures, corruption in the judiciary, and scandals in the corporate sector. The media acts as a strong agency which can be used as a platform for eliminating social evils and bringing positive change in the society.
A democracy without media is like a vehicle without wheels. But riot and distress accumulated over the last couple of years has replaced the democracy with tyrannical democracy. Citizens are bombarded with opinion polls and biased debates. It is necessary for media to be independent of biasness, political influence because if the press ceases to be independent the healthy influence of the press and public opinion will soon be substituted by the traditional influences of landlordism and feudalism. The press lords should endeavor to see that their interest do not come into conflict with their duties.” Sometimes topics are so sensational that media completely obscure the relevant and important topics. In fact news from some parts of the country is not covered by media thus it doesn’t register on people’s collective conscience. Today the world is driven by anonymity and outrage where the main agenda is to target a particular topic and it can be stretched for more than a month which takes over space to the exclusion of all other relevant projects happening in the country at that particular point of time about which everyone needs to be aware. Print Media or electronic media instead of finding space for a sane opinion on the conflicting topics in the country actually looks for the spectacle and pigeonholed some people for creating hatred. Sometimes media trial leads to miscarriage of justice. There are dangerous consequences of the stereotyping of the communities and social groups; social media like news channels spread the news regarding the militancy of Kashmiris because of which most of the people don’t trust them due to which they face so many difficulties. Some news channels tell openly about the defence hardware imported by India from another country which can cause a serious threat to the security of the country from the rival countries. It becomes so much easier to promote war in the country than it is to promote peace. The business model of mass media is such that it does not give an opportunity to find out the exact position of the country, the cheapest business model is to discuss on the topics in the studio which can generate more TRP to the channel. The bitter truth is that when china sent their Army on LAC, citizens of India were not aware of that till the situations became moderate; very few channels covered that news. In fact rate cards are given by the news channel to showcase the profile of the person in its channel especially during elections; this is something beyond hypocrisy and is against the public interest. Dr Ansari described the paid news as a double jeopardy as on one hand, it destroys the concept of fair and balanced press and on the other hand, it demonstrates the concept of a free and fair election and public interest. The irony is that no government wants the local platform companies to be mere conduits. They all require biased information, these platform companies have succeeded in placing themselves outside the sphere of social responsibility. The young generation is grown up in incredibly powerful apparatus of mass media, they are unaware of the other alternatives to caste vote, mostly youth is aware of only two parties BJP and Congress because media highlight the work of only these two political parties.
Social media sites have made it more difficult to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we nurture in the real world and the innumerable casual relationships formed through social media. These days Facebook like traditional media, presents the characteristics of editorial discernment and is most trusted and used app among the citizens of India especially citizens in their mid 40’s and 50’s. It is believed to be the most powerful media platform where people get their daily dose of news, views but nowadays it is used to harm social cohesion and creates unrest in society. Social media is the most important source for getting information during unrest and riot in the particular area but instead of providing more authentic information, fake news is viral that instead of promoting peace triggers riots and lynching. These platforms create hatred among the people for other religion; they show what they exactly want to show and the material facts and circumstances remain undisclosed.
There was a time when Doordarshan had a monopoly and it was the state-controlled medium which ran the news which government of India decided but now this monopoly is completely broken and many private news channels have come, it was believed that these news channels will be more authentic and less biased but in actual we are returning back to that era where the news channel was biased. Though the condition of India is far better than other countries like China, Pakistan where media is completely under the control of the government. In India some news channels, social media platforms are trustworthy
These social media platforms burn the bridges among the people by promoting fake news. Thus there is a need for understanding that media is the most powerful weapon that has the power to make innocent guilty and guilty innocent. It is the commanding instrument as it controls the mind of the masses. Media is proactive and most probably independent thus it gives rise to, misleading information, satirical content and clickbait. Social media platforms have evolved their own standards in response to public indignation and economic imperatives. Thus there is an urgent need to come to grips with the deceptive information because it has shattered the diversity and unity of India. India with its fraying social fabric could be the next target to influence operations by hostile nations which can foment internal violence. The danger posed by unregulated, hate disgorging social media is too critical to ignore. Social media companies like Facebook must initiate cleanup and should remove all hate speech on public platforms. The bipartisan parliamentary committee must give the right to regulate the functions of social media. The way out of this swamp is improved social policy based on a better understanding of the internet. A person should check the authenticity of the published article through other sources before sharing it with others. Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy. So the journalists and media must perform their functions properly so that the fourth pillar of the democracy can remain strong.
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