RSTV- The Big Picture : Challenges to Freedom of Press

  • IASbaba
  • December 25, 2017
  • 4
The Big Picture- RSTV
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Challenges to Freedom of Press


TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity
  • Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

National Press Day is commemorated each year on November 16 for a free and responsible press in India. Free press is the corner stone of vibrant democracy and the role of media in giving the voiceless voices is commendable. Many a times, it is the media which translates and transfers information about various social, political and economic activities happening around the world and literate the masses, even in their own languages. Thus, freedom of press is crucial for proper democratic functioning where the media highlights appreciation as well as criticism of stakeholders of democratic country.

Freedom of press

There was an impression in the press that right to dissent is not being encouraged by the new government. Many leaders were showing total intolerance to criticism. Rajasthan government even tried to curb the freedom of the press by bringing a law to bar media from naming any public servant for corruption till the government gives its nod for investigation.

Democracy cannot survive unless the press gets the freedom as it involves people’s right to know. If they don’t get proper information, they will not able to make proper choices. Though it is in constitution, it has to be in practice too. And that is the purpose of right to dissent.

Expansion of space

There is a considerable enlargement of space for media. Previously, media meant only the print media. Though broadcast and tv media is being not able to deliver at par as print media, however, the literacy bar required in print media has not been continued in electronic media and thus, it has resulted in its populism. Subsequently it became online media. Now with the advent of online publications, a space for digital media has also been opened. There is a rise in social media and news is consumed through mobile phones. This reach of media will make it more democratic and participative. The considerable amount of capital to publish one’s views across the audience has decreased substantially. A competition is created amongst new players with starting to have a niche products for themselves and thereby bringing almost all around information.

The combination of alternative media and electronic media has changed the nature of news from information to largely opinion based news regime.

Challenges faced by press- variety of sources

  • Government through legal means
  • Business model of media- the free information flow and freedom of writers is compromised by the advertisers which are mostly corporate sector
  • Social media and technological changes- It encourages unilateral and one way communication.
  • Political and institutional pressures

The complaint of the media today has been on access. The earlier records of previous governments show that they have treated the media as special category of citizens who had exceptional access. This culture has eroded now. Instead, the government has become less vulnerable to unauthorized leads and information. This has not gone down well with media and thus was portrayed as government trying to restrain media.

However, there is a mechanism- RTI – which has helped in getting institutional information. The customers of the media should have greater judicious point of view for the information available.

Internal reforms required

Everyone wants to ‘break news’ on the word go. This is different from traditional ways of journalism. The newspapers no longer have investigative teams. Investigative journalism has moved its platform. The online platforms are doing investigation and trying to uncover the truth. News has becoming commoditized. Many a time, rumours take form as news and easily are broadcasted through social media. This is causing harm to journalism as truth is not coming out. Paid news is yet another faction of ethical wrong in journalism.

Thus, there is need to change the media model where the users pay instead of government and advertisers. It needs to get out of its source of revenue from advertisements and let users pay for the required news and information.

Way forward

The Indian media is reinventing itself. Just as Indian media is quick to adapt to technology, it will be ready to take certain risks in its business model whereby the over dependence of advertisers will turn to people paying for quality news. Emphasis is on how to sustain quality, improve quality and get over irritants like paid news. But it so happens that those who don’t pay get victimized.

Emphasis to robust professional standard and alertness to technology is now constantly demanded. The media has to play god to readers by discerning news that reader must consume and offer wide array of choices and make up their mind on what they need to do. The media is the fourth estate of democracy. It still largely retains its independence where it is expressing its views on wide range of issues and thus retains diverse character.

Also, the media has to continue to remain free regardless of government. Press freedom can survive only because of belief that there exists free media. India has to improve its ranking on Press Freedom Index.

Connecting the dots:

  • ‘Freedom of press is a more myth, less reality’. Examine.

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