The Fractured Pillar of Democracy
“True democracy cannot exist unless all citizens have a right to participate in the affairs of the polity of the country. The right to participate in the affairs of the country is meaningless unless the citizens are well informed on all sides of the issues, in respect of which they are called upon to express their views. One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce when medium of information is monopolised either by a partisan central authority or by private individuals or oligarchic organisations” observed the SC in 1995 in the case of Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting vs. Cricket Association of Bengal and ANR.
The soul of democracy can exist only when the information about goverment actions and affairs reaches the masses in a free and a fair manner through a unbiased and free media.However in the past few years the increasing incidents of fake news, paid news or many other sorts of misinformation has created a high trust deficit in Media among people
Although this pillar of the democracy has been long used by leaders political as well as others to influence public opinion over the years. The propoganda news is now overshadowing the main stream media ;it is not that media has been used for spreading misinformation or for publishing one sided stories for political reasons only recently;but the difference today is that propagandist have digital techonolgy at there disposal today.
The use of internet has not only increased the speed at which information reaches the people but it also amplifies rate through which the misinformation can be disseminated especially via bots. These bots are used to multiply the rate at which misinformation is spread on massive scale.
The lack of regulations and policy regarding such fabricated content needs to be addressed urgently; goverment has recently come up with guidelines for the accreditation of journalists said that if the publication or telecast of fake news was confirmed, the accreditation of that journalist would be suspended for a period of six months for the first violation and for one year in case of a second violation. The third violation would lead to cancellation of accreditation permanently. But is that enough is the real question?
Apart from this industry also needs to be vigilant in reporting. Especially ,media organisation with strong digital presence should bind themselves with certain journalism standards.
One of them could be a reporting culture that places fact check from multiple sources as a primary check before reporting.Secondly, references to the source data of facts or hyperlinking facts to the source.These would not only enable users to double check the facts but also would instill a sense of confidence in the readers.
In times where journalists prefer to call them writers and where opinions are depicted as facts, it is essential that media orgainsation cleary mark off Facts and opinions more boldy. Also any advertorials be clear maked off as paid.
Also media organisation must publish there mistakes more openly rather pushing them in a corner of there newspapers or websites.In times where information is disseminated to readers rapidly media organisations must make an effort to publish any corrections or apologies in manner that it should reach the readers even faster. Digital articles that are changed online must mention the corrections if any that are made post intial publication. It can be good practice that organisations publish these corrections in there social media pages in addition to any other medium in which article was intially published.
And the gravest of the issues lies in conflict of interest in reporting,as per a report published in Business Standard in 2013 ‘More than a third of news channels are owned by politicians or politico-affiliated builders. An estimated 60 per cent of cable distribution systems are owned by local politicians .These have influenced and funded several local elections. There are dozens of small and big newspapers owned by politicians or their family members that influence the course of several local elections. Many newspaper chains with political affiliations also own broadcast networks. Most now have Internet portals.’ .
In times where the trust of the general masses on the media houses is at the lowest point , its better that media houses avoid any conflict of interests. TRAI in its recommendation on Issues in Media ownership has highlighted this issue of political and corporate ownership of News agencies but the questions remains that do our leaders have the have political will to act upon these issues.
“The 20th century has been characterizedby three developments of great political importance-the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and thegrowth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporatepower against democracy.” In India, the problem of corporate ownership is further aggravated by the lack of publicly available ownership records of media entities.
Adolf Hitler’s government, propounded that if one told a lie big enough and kept repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it and this is where we are headed. As with any complex problem there are lot of issues in implementing this rules and restrictions but this is cost we bear to keep our fourth pillar of democracy- Media standing.
Fact Check on Media Ownership in India:
The most apparent are the ones in Tamil Nadu as many of them are directly named after the politician–Kalaignar TV owned by M Karunanidhi’s wife, Dayalu Ammal; Jaya TV is controlled by the AIADMK party; Captain TV owned by actor-turned politician Vijayakanth; and Makkal TV is controlled by the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK).
As reported in the Caravan magazine by Suhrith Parthasarathy, in Tamil Nadu, each of theState’s five major political parties own at least one television channel, and all of these run at least one hour-long news program. Each of the State’s 15 news channels is now politically affiliated in one way or another. In 2009,the Sakshi Group, under the chairpersonship of Y.S.Bharati, the wife of JaganmohanReddy, commenced telecast of Sakshi TV. Not to be left behind, in December 2012,friends of the then Chief Minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy, picked up a 51 percent stakein I-News, according to a First post report. Chandrababu Naidu’s son controls Studio N, Eenadu TV isloyal to his party, the Telugu Desam. The TelanganaRashtraSamiti controls T News.
In the run-up to the 2009 general elections, for instance, the two channels virtually blanked outreports of the ongoing genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The DMK had been decrying Tamil victimhood in order to rally the electorate, but the coverage would have roused anger over the inaction of the country’s governing UPA coalition, of which the DMK was a part, and over the party’s inability to stem the violence. At the same time, the Marans, who also ran the dominantcable distribution system in the state, Sumangali Cable Vision, were blocking the telecast of Makkal TV. Makkal—owned by S Ramadoss, the leader of a rival party that had broken off analliance with the DMK because of differences over the civil war in Sri Lanka—had been spear heading coverage of the island’s bloodbath. At the polls, DMK and its UPA allies bagged 27 of the state’s 39 seats. Although it’s impossible to determine the precise effect that the DMK’s censorship efforts had on the outcome, the party wasclearly able to exert considerable control over the flow of information to voters.