‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive, import information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.’
–UN General Assembly, December, 1950.
By: Rukmini Barua Deka
A democratic nation guarantees freedom of expression and public opinion to all its citizens, where people have the right to express their views freely and form public opinion. Views differ from person to person and from time to time and so public opinion keeps changing. In a democracy it is of utmost importance for the citizens to be well aware and informed about happenings around them. The media provides all the information put to form a correct opinion about an event. People need a media that gives correct information. The media need to help in the formation of an informed opinion by projecting happenings correctly and in an unbiased manner.
For the healthy growth of a democracy, access to information is essential. People move forward by being armed with knowledge, making responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance and information. The media tries to ensure that elected representatives carry out the wishes of those who elected them. Media helps in good governance by exposing corrupt activities of the people in power. It encourages the participation of citizens in policy process. Opinions of the people are greatly influenced by what they see and read in the media. Therefore the media is expected to function with great responsibility. The moment the media stops being the voice of the people and a means for them to vent their feelings, it stops serving one of its main purposes.
Serving public interest or working for well being of the general public should be one of the primary aims of the media. Media for the sake of public interest should not be concentrated in a few hands. There should be many equally powerful providers of media in the absence of which the coverage is biased. If the media fails to cover different viewpoints and provide unbiased information, it will weaken the democracy. As media bombards people each day with vast amounts of information, the public needs to be vigilant. People should be careful, watching if any power-group is trying to manipulate their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Comprising television and newspapers, the media is a very powerful medium of communication. Programmes shown on television and articles written in newspapers send strong messages that can influence thought forms of the public, especially the youth. The media in a democracy is accountable to the government and the people. The government has laid down laws and codes of conduct like the Newspaper and Broadcasting Code of 1962 to regulate the media. As a primary rule, the media should try not to incite people to violence, covering events. The media should not malign individuals or communities. Any misinformation by the media would weaken the mutual trust and cooperation among the people and threaten the unity of the nation. That is why a balanced reporting of news, keeping in mind media ethics, is crucial in a democracy. Media should be socially responsible and responsive.
In a democracy, the media is supposed to be free and independent. A free and uncensored media has the responsibility of providing unbiased coverage of events. An independent media also helps to keep the judiciary under check by reporting on the way the court decides cases. The media assesses the performance of the government impartially so that people know how effective the government is. Media should act as an important check on the power and actions of the government.