Media as a Fundamental Unit of Democracy



Democratic government is the most admired form of government worldwide due to its accountability, people's participation, and division of power. The most distinct feature is that democratic governments allow criticism from the citizens and opposition and is accountable for their actions. The democratic government divides power into legislative, judiciary, and executive. All three organs perform their separate duties and keep a check on the powers of another. Apart from these three organs, the media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy as it works as a watchdog for the three organs. The role of the press is indispensable in any democracy.


Whenever any discussion regarding revolution and the spread of revolutionary ideas, it is impossible to not talk about the role played by the media. During the French revolution, the role played by the media in the proliferation of ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, and nationalist feelings among the French citizens led to the first-ever revolution for freedom in world history. Although, at that time, the branches of mass media were limited to print media like newspapers and books.


Relation of Media with the Citizens


The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent. Because they control the minds of the masses. - Malcolm X


Media is crucial to provide a platform for public opinion. It acts as a mediation between the citizens and the government. Media substantiates that citizens get insight into the working of the government and are aware of the schemes and laws passed by the country's legislation. The media gives a voice to the illiterate who fell into the traps of exploitative practices. Media also helps people to form various perspectives. Debates organised by news channels act as a platform for people to speak out their opinions and influence others opinions and ways of seeing things. Not only this, it provides a chance to the citizens to critically analyse the issue and enhance their intellect. Media raises issues and creates mass awareness in the country.


In any country, the media proves to be most competent during an election. It makes sure that people are aware of the actions of various parties for the welfare of the people when they were in power and what they are promising now. The analysis by reporters of the working and scandals of parties assist the citizens in voting. Moreover, the media also holds the power to manipulate the citizens.


Media as a Scrutineer to the Government


The media keeps a close watch on the working of the government and, at times, criticise the wrongdoings of the provisional government. The media acts as an auditor for government policies and expenditures. Due to the presence of the media, the democratic government ensures welfare and accountability to its citizens. Media also keeps a close eye and investigates the matters of fraud and corruption. The media tries to expose the political leaders and eminent personalities involved in illegal businesses and deals.

The very presence of the media creates a threat in leaders' minds to work within their powers and not utilise their position for their benefit. The government keeps a check on its work and policies at every step to avoid media and public criticism. Political parties and leaders watch their every step.


The media criticises and helps the government by promoting their policies and creating awareness for the national interest. Media has proved beneficial for the government in making the public aware of the health, social, economic, and educational issues and schemes.


Obstructions in the Way of Media


Even though the media is a fundamental unit of a democracy, it has many flaws. There are many hurdles in the path of unbiased media reporting, like:

  1. Corruption: It seems irrational that the media is involved in corrupt practices, but many instances of corrupt media have come to light in recent times. It was witnessed that in greed for financial gain, the media often promotes or highlights false claims and misleads the public.

  2. Race of TRP: News channels do not hesitate to mould the actual report to gain the highest TRP. For the sake of TRP, media personnel start their "trial" way earlier than the actual court hears it and often maliciously create a false impression of any person who is just being investigated on mere suspicion and possibly defame them in the process. The media does not pay heed to the effect of its false claims on the lives of others.

  3. Censorship Laws: They act as the largest obstacle in the free working of the media. Censorship laws restrict the media to work. These laws are the greatest threat to democracy and the freedom of the press. In any country where censorship laws are imposed, where criticism and condemnation to the government are not permitted, it kills the spirit of journalism.

  4. Sedition Laws: Sedition is a term used for conduct or speech that can incite people to rebel, harming the country's harmony. Sedition laws are now being used to quiet the voice of the media. Reporters are being charged under sedition laws for presenting their opinions. They are falsely being prosecuted for crimes they have not committed. Excessive use of sedition laws, in recent times, have made the reporters hesitant.

  5. Political Influence: Politics has spread its branches in the working of almost all institutions. Thus, the media is also not an exception. On the one hand, the media criticises one political party and, on the other hand, supports the other party to the extent that it overlooks every flaw and often hides its misconduct.


Impact of the Media


Media has left a remarkable impression on the working of democracies. The media's impact can be felt by the fact that people are much aware of the issues about their society. Media is undoubtedly capable of influencing the common masses.


Suppose one looks at the brighter side of the spectrum. In that case, the media makes the world a better place to live, where people have a voice in the working of the government and have all the information just a click away. People are often aware of their legal rights and obligations. It seems like a utopia. However, that is not the case, as the media is also defective at times.


There are numerous instances where the media has created a bad influence in public, primarily teenagers. Negative experiences shared on media platforms have harmed the mental and psychological health of the public. Sporadically, it has been observed that the media also invigorates communal violence and threatens the law and order of the country. Irrational recognition given to criminals and offenders by the media promotes criminal activity among individuals. There is a need to control and inspect the functioning of the media to an extent and observe its dual effects on society.

Conclusion


From the discussion so far, it is now prominent that the media is vital for any democratic government. The media supports the masses and acts as a bridge between the government and the people. Through the media, the people can share their grievances with the world, and only because of the media, relevant issues and problems catch the leaders' attention. Media ensures that a government works democratically. Media provides input in the democratic system and helps in forming opinions among the masses.


However, there is a strong need to ensure the freedom of the press and censorship laws must be abolished. Sedition laws create a sense of terror in the minds of journalists and media personalities. These laws are unnecessary in the modern world. There must be an organisational check on the working of the media to avoid corrupt practices and political influence. Qualities of free and honest media reporting should be embedded in the youth. International organisations should come together to curb the sedation laws and censorship in every country. The internet is flooded with information and false news. There must be some form of barrier over the spread of untrue facts and news.


However, there must be freedom of the press in any country to secure democratic values. It is also required to put restrictions on the media to regulate the spread of hate speech, media trials and any act or news which could harm communal harmony. The media must remain honest with the citizens as they confide trust in the media to share accurate news and information.


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