Being a democracy India gives freedom to the media. Rather, the media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy. With this freedom come many responsibilities which the media cannot ignore. In India, which is home to various cultures and religions, media is supposed to promote co-existence and tolerance. In the case of failing to do so, the media will be demolishing the very structure of democracy which it is expected to support.
It is worrisome that a section of the media, both electronic and print, tends to ignore this responsibility. In some of the cases, it even takes a stand with the elements who openly denounce cosmopolitanism of Indian society. Surprisingly the likes of Narendra Modi and L. K. Advani, best known for their divisive politics, have their supporters in the media. Similar is the case with some minority community leaders who enjoy the patronage of some media houses.
Besides this, the approach of the media over some issues is sowing the seeds of hatred among Indian communities. This is true especially in the case of terrorism. After media bashing of anyone accused of terrorism, the person and his family face social boycott. Though he is acquitted as innocent later, the hatred towards him in the hearts of people is hard to remove. In an attempt to sensationalize a simple case, the media in fact tears apart the Indian society.
Recently addressing a gathering of Kerala Union of Working Journalists the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that media should avoid the desire to be sensational and exercise restraint. According to him, it will help prevent the division of society and country.
“The desire to be sensational should be avoided even though it is very tempting sometimes. Restraint should be exercised so that nothing that divides our society and country is written, broadcast or telecast,” he said.
Singh’s advice to the media came while referring to the recent violence in Assam and its reverberations in other parts of the country, especially in South, which saw exodus of thousands of north-easterners back to their home states.
In fact, the media has a very important role to play in promoting greater communal harmony and inter-group and inter-community dialogue. It is so that the Prime Minister emphasised that media should be constantly vigilant and work continuously towards this cause.
“Freedom for multiple, often opposing, viewpoints to co-exist is one of the defining characteristics of our society and polity. An independent and responsible media is a pre-requisite for sustaining such a society and polity,” he said adding, “...We are proud that freedom of expression is a constitutional guarantee in India. The media in our country is not just a reliable barometer of public opinion; it is also the conscience-keeper of our nation.”
Mr. Singh also urged the media to be “fair, objective and balanced” in its reporting and opinion.
The media should promote optimism among its audience. This could be done through more focus on positive reporting. It would be laudable if the media carries the reports of development activities. Mr. Manmohan Singh praised the Kerala press for its development journalism.
To act upon the suggestions by the Prime Minister is not only in the interest of the country but also of the media. Sane people are fed up with the negativity found in media reporting.