Knock knock. Who’s there? Democracy. Democracy who?

Democracy in layman terms is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Media is being considered as the fourth pillar of democratic society after executive, legislature, and judiciary. One of the crowning glories of the democratic system is the freedom of expression and the space that is provided to views from different sections of the society. The last few years witnessed an enhanced interface between the media and the common man, thanks to social media

The role of Social Networking Sites in Indian politics has risen tremendously in recent years. Different Indian political parties have their websites and some of them also use other social mediums to interact with people. With every party having its website and leaders being active on different media it makes the citizens feel that they are within their reach. It feels like the leaders are a touch away. Mr. Shashi Tharoor of Congress Party was one of the first politicians to start tweeting and has a separate fan base for his tweets now. Through social media, politicians now constantly display their message through endless campaigns, see direct responses to their actions via Facebook or Twitter, and connect with the public. One of the most recent example is Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders, where an auto-generated response was sent to all those who tweeted to the PM, giving the illusion that they were contributing to something large.

It is important to note that political engagement through social media is not limited to adults, but young potential voters increasingly use social media for online political participation. Especially younger people are using social networking platforms such as Twitter to develop an individualised form of activism that they connect to most. Unlike Mainstream media where narratives are indirectly controlled, influenced and favoured by the business houses and political parties that are funding the channel, Social media is comparatively a less regulated space.

Ravish Kumar on his Prime Time show on NDTV urged everyone to stop watching television back in March 2019. Why would someone who earns his living through mainstream television media tell you to do that? This shows how grave the situation was and still is. Public issues have disappeared from the channels, when Indian states were reeling under floods, the channels were still flooded by anti- Pakistan narratives, tukde-tukde gang narratives and the never-ending glorification of the honourable PM. Is TRP more important than highlighting important issues? Is selling news more important than upholding the fourth pillar? If we see the current media scenario then the answer to the latter question seems too easy.

Wouldn’t you agree if I said that the watchdog, or in other words the press and the media have a significant influence on society? Then is it fair to have corporate houses and political parties with vested interests invest in the media?

India News is owned by Karthikeya Sharma, son of a Congress leader. News 24 is controlled by Rajeev Shukla, a Congress leader and his wife Anuradha Prasad who is the sister of BJP leader, Ravi Shankar Prasad. Times Group is owned by Bennet & Coleman. The Italian, Robertio Mindo who has a share in the group is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi. CNN- News 18 is owned by Mukesh Ambani. Republic TV is owned by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd and one of its biggest investors is Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a BJP leader- These are just a few examples out of the many news channels.

Editors are pulled up for putting their opinion, journalists are asked to toe the line, and media houses align themselves with different political ideologies and the interests of the owners and sponsors. Is it really possible to have a free and a fair media with this direct hold?

‘Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.’

Walter Cronkite

India is the world’s largest democracy, and the media mustn’t be controlled by any political party, big corporate houses or any other sector. The Press and the media is the voice of the voiceless and should promote the rights of not just the majority but also the minority; it is the duty of the press of any country to ensure that the government is functioning properly and no section of the society is left behind.

Sources-

  1. Role of media in Indian democracy https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/203650/11/11_chapter5.pdf
  2. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/critic-inside-ravish-kumar-speaks-tnm-state-indian-journalism-109378
  3. Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action- University of Chicago
  4. Who owns your media?- https://www.newslaundry.com/2014/02/05/who-owns-your-media-4https://cablequest.org/index.php/news/channels-owned-by-polticians