Role of Media in Strengthening Democracy in India

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THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY DIGVIJAY KUMAR A STUDENT OF NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY DELHI.

In the word of Abraham Lincoln,” Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. So the main pillar of democracy is the ‘people’. It’s the people who are the ruler in a democratic form of governance. And power sharing is one of the important aspects of democracy.  Everyone can participate in the governance. As in, everyone has the right to elect or be elected as representative in a democratic form of governance. Unless the people have the sufficient knowledge of the political incidents and the events participation of the people can’t be very effective. So, communication becomes very essential in a democratic form of government. Therefore this role is played by the media. Basically there are three institutions namely executive, judiciary and the legislative in Indian democracy. So because of the immense importance of media in democracy media can be considered as the fourth institutes of the democracy in India

Bringing people close

After the partition there were no contact between the media of India and Pakistan. First they got partitioned with respect to geographical boundary and then with respect to communication as well. So there was hardly any form of communication between the media of the two countries. After 1965 the journalist even stopped writing for each other’s newspaper. Even the movies were banned in each other’s country. But with the technological advancement this dearth of communication and the ban became irrelevant. With the invention of VCR the people started watching movies of each other’s country. Alter the popularity of DVD made this ban even more irrelevant. Thereafter, there were several attempts in pre-internet days to establish communication between the two countries.

It was only in 1984 when the Indian journalist and intellectuals were invited for a conference with the Pakistani journalist, politicians and retired civil and military officials to Islamabad, when the any formal step was taken toward establishing communication between the two countries. Various issued were discussed at the conference including the rights and wrongs in the India-Pakistan relationship. Both the sides avowed their view relating to the issue at the conference. After 19995 the journalist of the two countries began writing for each other’s newspaper after the convention of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). And recently in January 2008 and January 2009 two workshops were organized by the panos in kathmandu. This workshop was organized for the Kashmiri journalist across the border.

So media play a very significant role in bringing two different people together. It establishes communication between two different people, organization or country. As in case of India and Pakistan despite having long history of enmity media managed to establish communication. Similarly it brings people of the country closer to the government by raising and highlighting their problems so that the government takes adequate step to solve it. Information is not merely reporting about something or the action of the government but it’s actually a form of power. To provide information to people is like providing power to the people so that they can contribute to the democratic or political process. So, contribution of people to the process of governance by gaining information from the media definitely enhances the democracy.

Media freedom and people participation

Media freedom shapes the social, legal, political, economic and the cultural factor. People know very less about the political issues and activity in countries where the government interfere with the media. Once the government starts interfering with the media the information about the policies and the action of the government is prevented from reaching the people. Therefore the person becomes politically ignorant in such situations. And when the person becomes politically ignorant the government functionaries may not continue to function the way it should function.In fact in such circumstances the government seizes to be accountable. Also the political leader may exploit the government resources for their personal interest. So the cases of corruption are bound to increase at a fast pace in such circumstances. This has a very adverse impact on the development of the country. So in countries where the government does not interfere with media, people participation in the functioning of the governance is more and the people can easily punish the corrupt politicians. So free media repeatedly report the action of the government to the people and it put everything in front of the people to decide whether if it is right or not.

When people are not informed of the political activity, they become ignorant of the political issues as mentioned above. So when the media is not free the information does not reach the people and the people lose interest participating in the government functions. Also when the information about the political leader and the political parties does not reach the people, they become unware about the detail the political party or candidate of the election. So either they vote in darkness or they chose not to vote. So, lack of information has a very adverse impact on the voter’s turnout. So, free media play a very significant role in enhancing the voter’s turnout. As voter’s turnout is a very essential aspect of democracy it definitely contributes to the strengthening of the democracy.

Fighting corruption

Corruption is one of the major hindrances to success of democracy and to the development of the nation as well. There have been a number of instances where the corrupt government officials have exploited the national resources for their personal benefit. So this has to be stopped otherwise the main goal of democracy especially in India would never be achieved.

So transparency is most effective solution to such problems. According to Bentham,” The greater the number of temptation to which the exercise of political power is exposed, the  more necessary is it to give to those who possess it, the most powerful reason for resisting them. But there is no reason more constant and more universal than the superintendence of the public”. So, transparency is one of the most effective tools to fight corruption.

Now what is transparency? Transparency literally means that the every information related to something is made available to everyone and nothing is hidden from anyone. So an institute is transparent only if the people can inquire about all the information related to it. Whether the inquiry of the people is related to the functioning of the institution or the action, if it provide all information to the people then it is a transparent institute. So it’s the media who help the people to collect information from these institutes easier and cheaper. So, a medium play a vital role in digging out the facts from these transparent institutes and makes these facts available to the people.

There are two different types of transparency i.e. agent controlled and non-agent controlled. So this second type i.e. non-agent controlled transparency created by the media. It extracts the fact and information’s from the institutes and makes it available to the people. And this role off media makes the life of corrupt government officials tough. The media even at times releases the secret files which may include the actual instance of corruption.

Now after extracting the information what is required is that it communicated to the people otherwise it makes no sense. So mere extraction of information does not fight corruption it has to be communicated to the people so that the corrupt actors are punished. This process of communicating the information is called publicity.

So as seen above transparency is followed by publicity. Once the information reaches the people i.e. it is publicized the government functionaries becomes more accountable. So the government officials not only stops exploiting the national resources for their own benefit but they also starts behaving in a more responsible way.

So media play a very vital role in fighting corruption. As in it collects the information from the institutes and then publicize it and hence the government functionaries becomes more accountable. So media contribute a lot to these three processes namely transparency, publicity and accountability which strengthen the democracy.

Role of media in public policy

The inception of the democratic institutions dates back to the French revolution in 1789. There were three centers of power namely the monarchy, the church and the feudal lords during those days. So the fourth estate ‘media’ was added by the French revolution. It was because of the major roles played by the media in the democratic institutions. So even during the inception era of democracy the media had a very important role to play. Therefore we can’t imagine democracy in present day without media.

Media shapes the policy making of a country. Actually the policy making is composed of policy inputs (which influence the formation of policy), policy process and the policy output. The policy process is nothing but shaping of the policy by the various institutions. The policy output is actually authoritative action i.e. the decisions of the government on various problems of the people. And this policy outputs are the concrete products of the entire process. Media directly can’t shape the policy but definitely it can criticize the policy and force the government to change the policy in case if it is not in the interest off the people.it is because mediates between the state and the society and hence criticise by the media has very adverse impact the popularity of ruling party. In a way media exercises the decisive influence over the public policy.

There are aspects which facilitate the interaction between the media and the policy. One such aspect is the passive-active. When the media simply report about a story and simply summarises the entire story, this behavior of media is passive. When media is passive it does not inquire about the story in detail. It simply repeats the important and highlights the important facts. When media becomes aggressive it repeatedly research and make the story (which would not have been a story without its efforts), then this behavior of media is said to be active. When media behaves actively, it influences the policy making as it gather almost all information about any policy and then highlights it.

Media is the regulating flow of communication between the policymakers, policy and others in any political system. This role of media influences the policy making and hence makes a country and its political system more democratic.

Role of media in reducing sex-selection abortion in India

India had become cadaverous because of the problems like the sex-selective abortions. According to the census, the child sex ratio dropped to 927 from 945 in 1991. A large number of female foeticides were killed because off the desire of the parents to have a male child. Especially in the states like Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, these problems were on the peak. According to a report by Arnold Kishor and Roy (in 2002), around 100,000 female fetuses were being killed every year in India. The main reason of this problem was that the society presumes a female child to be weaker in terms of earning capacity. Also the society was patriarchal and hence women were given less importance. Also gender discrimination, lack of access to healthcare and gender based violence were some of the other reason why this practice was prevailing in the Indian society. These were some of the main reason of these heinous crimes which used to dominate our country.

 So the awareness about such problems was communicated to the people by the electronic media. Actually the information about this heinous crime was provided to the people through television drama. The drama would highlight all the does and don’t and also the importance of gender equality through various stories which were depicted in these dramas. Later the government started advertising about it through the media. Finally the people reacted positively to it and now the cases of female foeticides are very rare.

So the media was actually promoting the gender equality. So unless in a society everyone is equal that society can’t be considered to be a democratic society. It is because equality is one of the essential features of the democracy. Promoting equality is actually making an attempt to strengthen democracy.

Therefore the media plays a very significant role in strengthening democracy in India.

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