THE media acts as a guardian of the public interest in a democracy. It plays an important role in a democracy and informs people about events of national and international importance. The media is considered as the “fourth pillar” in democracies, along with the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The importance of media in influencing readers can be gauged from the fact that the role it played during the freedom struggle was politically educating the millions of Indians who joined the fight against British imperialism.
Journalism is a profession to serve the public. The basic purpose of journalism is to serve the people with news, ideas, comments, and information on matters of public interest, in a fair, accurate and impartial manner. It shapes public opinion. Parliamentary democracy can flourish only under the watchful eye of the media. The media not only reports but also acts as a bridge between the state and the public. With so much power and strength, the media cannot lose sight of its privileges, duties, and obligations.
Today, paid news, media trials, non-issues are being presented as real news, while real issues are being sidelined. Real news pertaining to social interest is being ignored. The main reasons behind the rise in the cases of paid news are profit maximization. Most of the media groups in India are run by big corporate houses which are in the fieldwork only for profits. The low salary of journalists and their desire to become famous early is also one of the reasons behind yellow journalism.
The statistics also reveal that about 40 percent of the total budget of most political parties is spent on media. Today, the excess of money and paid news used in elections is a matter of grave concern. According to the Press Council of India, news that is being broadcast in print or electronic media in exchange for cash or other benefits is called paid news.
The absence of objective journalism gives rise to a false presentation of facts in a society. This affects people’s perception and ideas. As seen in the Cambridge Analytica case, biased news coverage on social media platforms affected the U.S. elections. The pursuit of sensationalism and high TRP rates, as seen in the coverage of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in India, endangered the internal security of the nation. Despite court guidelines, sensationally driven reporting compromised the identification of rape victims and survivors.
Paid and fake news can manipulate public perception and create hatred, violence and disagreement between different communities within society. It is therefore important that for the media to play its important role effectively and efficiently, it must operate within a well-defined code of conduct while maintaining its independence and editorial freedom. As irresponsible journalism invites restrictions, robbing the media of its freedom, professional conduct and ethical practices are critical to protecting media freedom and ensuring that public confidence in the media is maintained.
Dr. Satyawan Saurabh,
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