Media in democracy uses journalism as a tool to improve the quality of life of the citizens of a democratic country and to promote democratic ideologies. It acts as an adhesive that holds the communities together. Apart from that, it also enhances the ability and desire of an individual to listen to others and give meaning to the rights of others. It creates a nexus between the accountability of the government and the rights of the citizens in a country, which is truly essential in a democracy.
Democracy refers to a form of government where people have the right to vote and elect their representatives. Media is just an instrument that helps in promoting the basic principles of democracy, which eventually aims at promoting the right of the citizens of a particular nation. There is no denying the fact that media has evolved in its own ways.[i] It is a term that refers to the components of the mass media, such as print media, like publishing, news media, photography, cinema, broadcasting on radio and television, and advertising. Without free media or press, democracy cannot be successful. As we all know, democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people. Also, it is the voice of the people and an important source of information for them. Media is generally considered as the fourth pillar of democracy.
Responsibilities of Media in a Democracy:
Media, in a democratic country, holds a lot of responsibilities. Some of them are:
- To provide citizens with fair and genuine information. Media shall not stain the evidences; they shall present them as they are. Their nature should not be manipulated by the media.
- To motivate the people of a country to think more about what is going on around them, and they can do this only by providing them with information about the events taking place around them. In a country like India and other such countries where there is more illiteracy, it is the responsibility of media to make people aware and educate them in such a manner that they are able to mould their opinions.
- To bring out matters of social, political or economic injustice that violate the rights of the people.
- To cultivate a sense of harmony amongst the people and maintain their faith in democracy and judiciary. If the media submits to its responsibilities then the democracy will be appreciated in an actual sense by the citizens of the country.
Roles of Media in Indian Democracy Media:
Media is the backbone of a democracy, it plays some very important role in Indian democracy, which are as follows:
The media, according to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, acts as a watchdog of the government and also reports the actions of the administration, keeping people informed about everyday events that are happening around them.
The media is an essential pillar of democracy and holds it in place. It makes the people aware of various activities like politics, sports, economic social and cultural activities etc. Just like a mirror shows the reality of a person, media also shows the true picture of the society, and this truth can sometimes be harsh, which means it might reveal some dark secrets of the society that are generally not known by the common people.
Media also unveils the loopholes in the democratic system, which ultimately helps the government to fill the vacuums and make the system more accountable, receptive and democratic. We can also say that democracy without media is like a vehicle without wheels.
Media also acts as a link between the people and the government and is also a very powerful instrument that has the ability to either frame or de-frame people’s opinion on any matter/issue. It has the ability to instil perceptions or invoke emotions. This is why it has gained faith of the public. Media, through its various means of newspapers, television and cinema is what rules the heart and mind of people.[ii]
It has helped to shape the democratic society by emphasizing more on the issues that are firmly considered private, like, childbirth, child care, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.[iii]
Therefore, the press informs and enlightens the people to form their own political opinions and make their own decisions based on their own understanding and this is why media needs to be transparent and correct. But it can only provide information and can persuade people to be involved in public debates. The freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to the citizens by the Indian Constitution gives them the right to share their views and opinions about the government, this allows them to praise and criticize the government which is like giving feedback to it and helping it to make necessary reforms in the existing structure/system.
Role of media in democracy and good governance:
The term, good governance is used to describe the conduct of public institutions as far as matters relating to various public affairs and managing public resources are concerned. Governance is a process of making decisions and implementing them and good governance is related with the processes of making and implementing productive decisions and rules which ultimately benefit the society and helps it to grow on various levels.
Media is generally aimed at reaching out to a larger mass of people so that the flow of information happens at a large scale. It is an unbiased reporting of facts through print, television, radio or via the internet. Even though it does not have the authority to modify any decisions made by the three organs of the state, i.e., the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, it amplifies the voice of the people or the citizens of the country so that can communicate their opinions to the lawmakers in an effective fashion.
Misinformation or ignorance of information is dangerous and people must be made available of the essential information that is required by them in a democratic society. Also, some people can seek help from the media and this can gain results in matters that are related to governmental activities, corruption, decentralization or any other social issues. People living in rural areas have been taking the help of televisions and radios in keeping themselves informed of all the events in their native language.[iv]
The rule of law may be regulated with the support of an independent media that keeps a check on the judiciary, reports on the courts, and creates an environment that is more fitted for press freedom. Free and fair elections conducted through unclouded processes require a media sector which gives the candidates equal access and reports the relevant issues, timely. Freedom of the press means freedom of publication, freedom of access to all sources of information and freedom of circulation. Hence, press freedom plays a significant part in the formation of public opinion on issues of public importance that affect the public, irrespective of the fact that it affects them directly or indirectly.
Media needs to be free from the control of the government and its ultimate goal must always remain to serve the public interest. The main concern of media is public interest. It should not be just limited to entertainment but should expand to create awareness amongst classes, which will encourage them to grow and develop. In a country where there are large scale poverty and unemployment, media has a responsibility towards developmental journalism. It has a pivotal role to play behind the formulation of public opinion which can force the political parties to address the core issues haunting the country’s progress and growth.
Good governance is a utopian concept for some people because it is an ideal system of governance, which is not very easy to achieve. The journey of a democracy, from a developing nation to a developed nation strongly depends on the actions carried out by its media. The focus of media should mainly lie on real issues that are generally social and economic in nature. Achieving this ideal goal of good governance requires the participation and cooperation of each and every member of a democratic society. The media inclusive of its noteworthy roles, its mechanisms and its content, is considered to be the most powerful weapon in making this goal, achievable.
Thus, we can say that the media acts as a communicator in a democracy. It informs people and makes them conscious of the state of affairs by providing them with a detailed insight on important issues concerning people living in such democratic countries. Freedom of media is of paramount importance to democracy as it helps in the efficient working of a state and is an indispensable part of it.
Q1. What is the role of media in the right to freedom?
Ans. The media inform society on matters of public interest and create an important platform for public debate, scrutiny and reflection. Therefore, independent media and quality journalism are considered to be the watchdog of a democratic society.
Q2. How does the media affect a democracy?
Ans. Media has given political parties the tools to reach large numbers of people and can inform them of key issues ranging from policies to elections. A commonly known effect social media has on democracy is the spread of false and/or misleading information.
Q3. How a media watchdog can benefit a democracy?
Ans. They benefit democracies because, in such countries, there is a high level of freedom of the press and journalistic autonomy and independence.
Q4. How do media affect society?
Ans. The media can manipulate, influence, persuade and pressurize society, along with even controlling the world at times in both positive and negative ways; mentally, physically and emotionally.
Q5. What are the rights given to the media in India?
Ans. The Indian Constitution does not provide freedom for media separately. But there is an indirect provision for media freedom. It gets derived from Article 19(1) (a). This Article guarantees freedom of speech and expression.