MEDIA AS THE FOURTH PILLAR OF DEMOCRACY IN INDIA OR NOT: AN ANALYSIS IN THE LIGHT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Author: Sudeep Chandra, III year of B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Law college Dehradun Faculty of Uttaranchal university
The media has become the most powerful entity in democratic countries. As the main function of the media is to aware people of the social, economical as well as political activities around us. Over the years, media has become more active. The role of media is its ability to spread the views and opinions of millions. The pivotal role of media is that it can bring a change in society and it can be good or bad depending upon its usage. There are mainly three pillars of democracy i.e. Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. But with the rise of the role and influence of media on society, it can also be considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Fair media can help and lead the democratic country to reach its real goals. In this article, the authors have presented the historical development of media in this world beginning from 868 AD till the present time. On the completion of the historical background, the influence of media has been highlighted with a glimpse of the media effects with the help of the definitions from the famous researchers of the respective field. The personal views of the authors are also expressed in a separate heading analyzing whether democracy has proved to be an efficient pillar of the democracy along with its loopholes. Finally, the authors have concluded the article by stating the importance of media in today’s world and what can be done towards its further improvement.
Keywords: Democratic, Economical, Executive, Legislature, Judiciary
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the media of the masses”- Malcolm X
Democracy in India has a Doctrine of separation of power which is abided by. India is becoming a large market for the fourth pillar of democracy with over 118239 registered newspaper and over 700 television news channels and the number keeps on increasing but in the modern era, the social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp has provided a large platform for the people to connect upon and to share information because of its restriction-free cyber law. But with the growth of the TRP race and the new environment of paid media and promotion over the social media platform has hit media drastically and made media one of the biggest enemies of the Indian democracy.
In today’s world media has become the fourth pillar of democracy all over them along with the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. It has become so important that as in the absence of the other three pillars, the government cannot run systematically, but now it is felt that media as a body is also necessary to be with them. It has become the connective line between the government and the general public. Media make the general public aware of social, political, economic activities around us. The role of media is to reveal the truth and realities of society, without being bias in front of people. It can be said that accountable media can lift a nation to heights and unaccountable media can cause disarray in society. Here it has to be kept in mind that it should never be generalized and said that media houses have become the TRP race firms here some news channels work hard to protect the fourth pillar of democracy from falling apart despite the various crack appearing on the pillar. Media has become the fourth pillar of democracy as in democratic countries people have the freedom of expression and a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”.
The history of mass media can be seen from a very early time. The first printed book was printed in China in 868AD which is known as “Diamond Sutra”. However, people were not so literate in China which led to the relatively high cost of paper. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press which allowed the mass production of books in the nation and this was the first form of mass communication. The first book he printed was Latin Bible in 1453. In 1810, another German printer, Friedrich Koenig, pushed media production even further which enabled the industrialization of printed media. Newspapers were developed in the 17th century, but they took until the 19th century to reach a mass audience as only a few people were literate. But slowly and gradually people learned to read and write and this led to the growth of mass media. By the 18th century, the first high circulation newspaper arose in London ‘The Times of London’. Photography had changed the scenario of media. By the late 19th century, new technology allowed newspapers to print photographs. In the early 20th century first major non-print form of mass media was started influencing people i.e. Radio, as it was less expensive than television and allow a large number of people to listen at the same time. And slowly and gradually transitions from one technology to another have greatly affected the media industry and undoubtedly evolved and become more active over the years.
Freedom of media
The Indian press commission has expressly said that “Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of its legislature, but also under the care and guidance of public opinion and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which opinion can become articulate”Freedom of media under the constitution of India is nearly a part of the freedom of speech and expression as said by Dr Ambedkar in his speech in which he said “The editor of a press or the manager is merely exercising the right of the expression, and therefore, no special mention is necessary for the freedom of the press.”Media has the power to circulate and influence the masses through any wrong Idea or news about any situation. It also plays a very vital role in playing with the mind of the general public.
In the recent campaign, BJP spends a total of four 42.3 crores between February 2019 to the end of April 2019 cross 108968 ads. The Indian National Congress has invested in rupees 1.46crore on Facebook for 3686 ads. It shelled out another 2.71 crore rupees on Google platforms with 425 ads. This leads the media to treat involving the advertisement space and it is shown to the public as ‘news’, which disease the public at large the real news about democracy is suppressed on the large investment of various ‘paid news syndrome’.
Although we have freedom of media but the people who follow the real news or take time to express their views on any social media platform are forced to keep quiet, it is evident that they even receive threat calls against their family members and them. A report of the Hindu on 25th March 2019 said that “55% of sample English internet users were concerned that expressing their political view online could get them into trouble with the authority’s, an English digital report prepared by the Reuters institute showed.”
It has been reported by NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar in The Hindu (newspaper, 25 May 2018) that he has been receiving calls threatening to kill him and rape the woman in his family. According to the committee to protect journalists India has seen cases of attack on the journalist last year. The names are given below:
Shujaat Bukhari: Veteran journalist and Rising Kashmir editor were shot dead by suspected militants in Jammu and Kashmir on 14th June 2018.
Naveen Nischal: Dainik Bhaskar journalist was run over by a speeding SUV of the village council held in Bihar on 25 March 2018.
Chandan Tiwari: He worked for a Hindi newspaper, AAJ in Jharkhand where he was abducted and beaten to death for allegedly exposing if regularities in a government scheme.
Sandeep Sharma: He was investigating illegal sand mining in Madhya Pradesh, where he was brutally moved down by truck on 26 March 2018.
India is ranked at 140th place out of 180 countries in the annual report of reporters without borders. Norway top the ranking of the world press freedom index 2019, such a low rank of India in the world press freedom index is a result of the violent attack on the Indian journalist which had led to the death of six journalists last year. These murders show a danger the Indian journalists have to face while ground reporting, most of the death have been alleged by the BJP supporters.
On one hand, we talk about Article 19(1) (a), the freedom of speech and expression and on the other hand with journalists have to face the danger of life if they do correct reporting. Once the Former United States deputy said, “Without a free and independent media, true democracy is unattainable”. So it’s time for all of us to decide that do we want the true democracy or democracy which looks colourful in the ‘paid media syndrome’. It is time for us to decide why there is no proper media coverage of any important event in society or our country instead of creating fake debates on irrelevant topics. If we want free and independent media so we have to choose which media provides the correct information about our country rather than being a graduate from WhatsApp University.
Abuse of power by Media
Media as a Fourth Pillar of Democracy ought to understand its limitation of not interfering with the work of the rest of the wings. Jim Morrison an American singer has once said that “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind”. Media has played a very vital role in the impositioning of a political party view to the people of the country. It has played its role in the division of anti-government and Pro-government people in the other words the anti-government people are called the Anti National and the pro-government people are called Bhakts. The division created by the media is completely illogical as the youth leader who has the power to speak against the ruling government are often said to be Anti National people. History shows that when another ruling party was in full majority some youth leaders who had the power to speak against the ruling government were denoted as a youth leader but now the scenario has completely changed now the people who have the power to speak against the ruling government are declared as Anti National by the media. Now the current power of media has enlarged itself to inculcate half of the Indian democratic population by sharing news that is unauthentic and completely biased towards the ruling government.
The media play a very important role in the 2019 general election as a sting operation by a news organisation called cobra post claim and revealed the engagement of the news channels being extremely biased towards the ruling government. With many of the leading media houses and the country’s most senior media personals and journalists to make money in return to push their political agenda in the news channel and non-prime time. The website of cobra post says its recording shows that some of the leading media houses were willing to “not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the election outcome in favour of a particular party” and they will do this in return for moneyReport of the cobra post says that he approached multiple leading media houses offering all of them the similar deal. He also claims that the Hindu monastery was willing to pay a large amount of money for the general elections in 2019 so that the ruling government can remain in power.
In the recent event, one of our greatest commissions the chandrayaan-2 was depicted by the media as the soul work of the lunar mission was done by the current ruling Government and the fact that the mission was started back on November 2nd 2007 and representatives of the Russian federal space agency and ISRO signed an agreement to work together on the chandrayaan-2 project. The Indian government approved the mission in the meeting of the union cabinet held on 18 September 2008 and was chaired by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The design of the spacecraft was completed in August 2009 which scientists of both countries conducted a joint review, but the complete credit was given to the current ruling Government and the fact that the preparation of the chandrayaan2 was started back in 2007 was completely hidden from the general public. Questioning the other wings if democracy is good but delivering judgement before the procedure has even initiated is judiciary or explaining how the legislature should make laws or how the executive should work cannot be the task of media. The major aim of media is to show the people the correct and unbiased news but the current media has completely abused its power and provided the general public with half-truth and bias news.
Legislations for media
Media has the power to influence society at large so it had become important to frame laws for the proper regulation of media. So given under are some laws that are framed by the government for the regulation of media:
Press regulation 1799: The law made mandatory so that the information provided should be identified with its name and other details.
Gagging Act 1857: This Act made it mandatory to provide the licence to all the printing press and it also empowered the government to restrain from the publication of any printed material.
Cable television regulation Act 1995: This act complies with any transmission of communal polarization.
Press council of India Act 1965: This Act was enacted “for protecting the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of both newspapers and news agencies.”
The media plays an indispensable role in the proper functioning of a democracy. Without mass media, openness and accountability are very tough to reach in contemporary democracies. By going to the various aspects of how media has the potential for becoming the fourth pillar of democracy, we conclude that it has been given enormous power and have the potential to influence the society at large but this influencing power of the media has gone to the wrong hands. Media has the role of the communicator between the government and the masses so that the policies and programs started by the government could be utilised by the general public but in today's scenario, the role of media is completely distorted by various political agendas and various paid new scandals. The larger picture of democracy is covered in a veil of fake news and the wrong use of media. Certain media houses try to provide the correct news to the general public but their voices are suppressed by putting wrong allegations on the reporters. The laws that regulate print, as well as electronic media, should be used properly to provide the correct news to the people. These all show that ethics and principles on which the foundation of the fourth pillar of democracy was laid, is in a mess and we need to recheck the foundation and provide it with truth, integrity and cornerwise. But this should not be done on the compromise of the transparency and honesty of the media and its agencies, with due importance to ‘media ethics’ all the way. The people of India are the real reasons for whom these pillars were established, so the fourth pillar must properly play its role.
Constitutional law of India, Dr J.N.Pandey, 2017 edition, page number 207.
 Dr Ambedkar speech in constitutional assembly debate, VII, 980.