India needs free media to hold ‘power to account’: Hamid Ansari
Holding power to account is something Indian media will forget doing after a while not because it won’t want to but because it won’t be allowed to. This year’s global press freedom index ranks India at 142nd position out of 180 countries. This fact is ironic, saddening and surprising as India, which forms one of the Largest Democracies, is moving towards ruins by weakening its fourth pillar of Democracy, the Media. This National Journalism Day, here we are, giving you all the arguments you need, to support Free Media.
You have an opinion, you want to express it but you won’t be able to, Why?
Recently, it has been declared that the OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix etc. will be in purview of the Information and Broadcasting ministry. It is very likely that digital media, the digital news will be the next on the radar of censorship.
Living in the 21st century, the age of media convergence, happy are we as we are able to have access to different forms of media and blessed are we as we are able to choose which from do we want to hold on to. Earlier, our reach to the media was surfaced to newspapers and televisions. Essentially talking about the news content, newspapers provide news for the previous day, early in the morning while Television broadcasters broadcast news and updates spontaneously. But over the years, both of these spaces have been monopolised and capitalised with the advertisements and state sponsored content, broadcast media being a soft target of it.
To eradicate and serve the function of the media, that is acting as the 4th pillar of democracy, online media was there to be at service. People, at several instances, use social media media platforms like twitter, Instagram, Facebook to say what they want to say, but imagine if the digital content also starts getting censored. So yeah, then if you will have an opinion, and you will feel like you want to express it, you won’t be able to, because your media won’t be free?
Are you thinking what Censorship we are talking about because you think it is just regulation? Well, you might be wrong!!
Censorship doesn’t essentially mean shutting off an organisation or taking away the right to report from some journalist. In a Democracy, every subtle and manifested way of out slaughtering any voice, directing what topics can and can’t be covered, telling what can or can’t be said or who can or can’t be put on the radar of questioning, within the moral code, is a part of censorship. Where this is one part, the other is the repercussions of reporting things that an organisation/ person is directed not to publish/ report. They can be convicted under sedition charges, face harassment, threats and now, we even have the acts like UAPA to indirectly compliment the censorship.
But Regulation is Important, No? But how much regulation and who is regulating? The intolerant Government?
Of course, there should be some regulation on media, which India already has with Article 19(2). We then have a public service Broadcaster, Prasar Bharti which is said to be autonomous but is getting its funds from the government so its story is no different from the censored and state-sponsored ones. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting looks at the other forms of Media which is a body under the Government’s control. And with an intolerant government, can we expect the real issues to come to us through the media? Hence, what do we need – A media being regulated by a completely autonomous body.
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