Media: Still A Mouthpiece For Free Speech?- Surabhi Kalra – Critiqué – Submission #3
Communiqué is the annual media conclave organized by IlluminatiX- The Media and PR cell of XUB that seeks to deliver a platform for quality discussions on emerging trends and issues plaguing the media industry. The theme for this year was, ‘Media: Still a Mouthpiece for Free Speech?’ Communiqué is preluded by Critiqué which is an article writing competition organized by IlluminatiX, through which students from various colleges all over India get an opportunity to share their opinions on the theme. On the basis of creativity, content, and relevance eight students were selected this year to be the best submissions.
“Pen is mightier than a sword”, Bal Gangadhar Tilak realized the power in these words and founded the paper, “Kesari” envisaging a country free from British Raj. The Kesari was not only bound to the limits of Maharashtra but was a weapon superior beyond imagination. It awakened the rationale of the revolutionary thinkers. The blunt and impartial writings ignited the fire of freedom amongst the Indians while facing the wrath of court cases under the colonial rule.
Freedom of speech is an integral function of the human personality, and it is intertwined with human autonomy and dignity. Freedom of speech empowers an individual to speak one’s mind out irreverently and defiantly. Freedom of Speech catapults the central capacity of our mind to reason, wonder, hope and believe. People respect freedom of speech as much as they respect individualism.
Freedom of speech is solidly entrenched in our constitutional law and has been positively embraced by the public. For countless years now, philosophers, historians, legal scholars, and judges have explained and provided justification for protecting freedom of speech, but all in vain. The essence of freedom has been lost somewhere. In the United States, both the freedom of speech and freedom of the press are commonly called freedom of expression.
As unfortunate as it may be, the horrendous truth holds true; Media is NOT a mouthpiece for free speech anymore. Indeed, free speech has become a mockery in the hands of Media. “He who pays the piper calls the tune’’. Be it print media or electronic media, both are party parrots singing to the tune of politicians, vigilante groups, police and security personnel, lawyers and even, criminal groups. And the media is a puppet in their hands, with the lives of journalists at their mercy.
Whether it is sand mining, stone quarrying, illegal construction, police brutality or any kind of corruption, bringing out the murky truth in open has often risked a journalist’s life.
According to the Hoot’s report, 54 journalists were attacked in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, which is an understatement, given the country lost close to 142 journalists during 2014-15. And the perpetrators, with their identities known, got away scot-free because of the kind of influence they had wielded with the sponsors of such hideous violence. The Hoot’s also reported internet shut down 31 times in India in 2014, and close to 14 times in 2017.
Perhaps, this agitation led to a rise in popularity of digital media which has not only jeopardized the position of media in India but has jinxed it globally. Taking to this platform, an individual could speak their mind out unless they experienced getting slammed by the government for their anti-government comments. Since the online content getting published is managed by a few hand-picked companies, the process lacks transparency. A vast majority of countries including China have imposed restrictions on these kinds of websites.
Subsequently, to reach out to the masses, it is has become of paramount importance for the government to take charge of the developing media technology, which has been gaining momentum. The manipulation of the information flow via this channel in exchange for the ethics of journalism is appalling. Owners in the market-based media, exercise their power in publishing their opinions and decisions. This influence is more salient if the media house is owned by the government.
The very recent 2014 election enunciates the paradigm in Indian media’s biased reporting. The winning party candidature received wholehearted and unprecedented support from the mass media. Advertisement campaigns were on the scale that was unparalleled in Indian history, not only in traditional media i.e. print, radio, television and outdoor banners, but more on digital media (blogs, WhatsApp and other social platforms). A huge chunk of the media which is owned by corporate conglomerates typically ensured that this one party wins, hands down. And immediately after elections, it took over India’s biggest media house, Network18.
Corruption in media just doesn’t end here. It has infected media with the concept of “Paid News”, entailing illegal payments in cash or kind, for fabricating the content in publications and media independently, which may appear seemingly unbiased and original. The conundrum with Paid News is its association with black money, which is difficult to track. This is deception, passing off advertisements as news and questions the ethics of an individual.
To deter such malpractices, a quasi-judicial authority was set in place by an act of Parliament, called “The Press Council of India” and the irony is that far from putting a person behind the bars, PCI cannot find anyone. PCI has no entitlement to penalize or punish an individual or organizations for violating a code of ethics, which, at best is a protocol for good journalistic practices.
Journalists are often affiliated with parties, and to bag the spotlight, they masquerade the news with their judgments and propaganda. Who can blame them to have political aspirations?
The sad state of affairs obey the golden 80-20 rule where 20% of the lobbied media organizations decide 80% of what we read, listen on the radio and see on television, websites and mobile handsets. It doesn’t give us the choice to choose from a vast array of varied media.
The hard-hitting reality of Gauri Lankesh’s mysterious shooting questions freedom of speech and freedom of expression. How many more such journalists will we lose to come to accept and respect and honour the freedom of expression? Has fear truncated our cognition intellect?
Just as we often believe, hoping is the only hope we live by. Truth has an incorrigible persistence in a stubborn way. Cutting it down, again and again, will not extinguish it. Albeit, humanity may be fallible and truth may appear elusive, but the hope of humanity lies in the faith that truth shall prevail- ALWAYS!
– Surabhi Kalra
Great Lakes Institute of Management
Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflects the views of the University or its students. Comments made on this platform are the sole responsibility of the writer and the writer will take full responsibility and liability for the same.