What is democracy? Is it a feeling of liberty or a state of consciousness about ones right, is it a medium to express freely or an institution that guarantees prerogatives and a dignified life. Democracy, is all of the above. India, got its freedom from the garb of Englishmen in the year 1947, and finally protruded a constitution that promulgated democracy. Our Constitution is dense, intricate but emanates India as sovereign,socialist, secular, democratic and republic. It incorporates various essential principles that act as the backbone of Indian social, political and economic establishments. Fundamental Rights, is one such powerful and an exigent element of the Indian constitution that empowers every citizen to procure and achieve, whenever and wherever it faces any abrogation. The minds and ideas involved in shaping the constitution successfully placate any conundrums of the Indian society.  When we talk about the pillars to ensure this democracy, our constitution had plunged this responsibility on the Legislature then the Executive, Judiciary and finally Media. A nation where media stands as a fourth pillar to ensure democracy, dissemination of accurate and reliable information, becomes an absolutely indispensable responsibility of  media broadcasters. 

The fundamental right to “Freedom of speech and expression” empowers and guards the media,to be independent and secure and also acts as a watchdog defying the excessive violation of powers by any of the organs of the government. Dissemination of awareness to a large group of individuals,is both an advantage as well as a risk. Media and its various platforms, is a tool between the citizens and the Government of any country and it has to stay neutral as well as accountable. As the fourth estate of the democracy, it aids the society by germinating several ideas, beliefs and opinion of the public at large. Neutral broadcasting is what countries aim for, as an independent media, helps the society be wary about their opinions and be responsible for the consequences as such. Media and its several platforms shouldn’t be a tool for executing any commercial business, instead it should be a tool for engendering solidarity and connectedness amongst the citizens in the society. 

As it is always stated “to garner trust is like to sow wheat in the farm and to break it is like setting an ablaze to the dried plants”. Corrupted and commercialised media, acts in such a manner to the accuracy of information being disseminated. Cognizance arising out of deceit is far more precarious than no cognizance at all in any society. Therefore the question arises, if the contemporary media actually exists or is it just a hoodwink in the Indian society? A topic, as contentious and dire, as it may seem, Indian media has slowly morphed into a sensationalised medium and is mostly a commercial form of business. Garneringhigh television ratings as well as commercialising and selling corrupted information has famished the severity of the freedom of speech and the need of neutralisation of the media.  The idea of liberalism and access to truth is actually vitiated on a regular basis due to this unflinching exercise of sensationalism. Sensationalism refers to the tactics used by mass media broadcasters who manipulates the events and information to be presented in such a manner that provokes or excites several viewers and readers, encouraging wrong and biased impressions of the events amongst the population. So the question arises what is the price for media sensationalism and favouritism?  2019 and the early 2020 witnessed crimes involving hate in plenitude, riots , protests, mass killings , damage to properties and environment , were all proliferated during these times . This took place because of fake news being disseminated on a large scale in the society with the help of media and social media platforms. The amount of genuine information disseminated was in much less amounts when compared to the fake and sham information in the society. 

India is becoming a breeding ground for a biased and smothered media, which is dominated by some inherent vested interests. Who should be blamed for this social pandemonium?  It is elusive to scrounge for accountability of information in our country. Information and news being broadcasted in various media platforms are nothing but tufts of opinions that manipulate citizens, taking advantage of their vulnerability and dependency over media. According to several reports,it is found that, there is a hostile environment of abuse, threat and violence created against journalists who managed to escape the control from various segments, interested in extolling their respective opinions. According to various reports, Journalists are being killed over ideological differences to not succumbing to threats, Indian journalists have also been targeted by political groups, security personnel and even powerful village representatives.A harrowing incident occurred against a reputed journalist who was brutally attacked and shot dead outside her house by some assailants, who were allegedly annoyed by her anti –Hindu leanings in the year 2017. Sometimes it is the media itself that aims at commercializing the information and broadcasting it in a manner that is perilous and exhaustive to the social harmony. The media depends upon the ‘Uses and gratifications theory’ under which it focuses on what media users do with the media. According to this, there is a strong correlation b/w the gratifications and thus media attempts to serve on these gratifications and reap profits. The media industry acts similar to those profit seeking business wherein the journalists caters to the need of public by providing material that will invariably be consumed by the people at large , thereby benefiting the capitalistic need of the industry. Being such an important estate, media and its several platforms has caused a huge ignominy to the exercise of democracy in our country.It has led us to a situation where, the citizens of this nation are unsure of the information they are relying on. This reflating distrust in the society has caused dwindling credibility to the media and its tranches and there has to be some measures that protects this diminishing faith over media. 

A free and independent media, is a fundamental right that is ensured to the citizens by their constitution that was built on faith, truth and realisation for the betterment of the nation. The freedom of speech and expression is gallantry and emancipates media from any kind of external control. Media, is vested with enough strength to shake the walls of the various organs of our nation and ensure the proper order of checks and balances in the society. Disguised and treachery not only affects the society at large but weakens this strength solemnly accorded to the media by the honorable constitution of India. Media is that pillar that extracts democracy from failing and defy the rule of secretive tyranny. Commercialism, has proved detrimental to any society in various manners, and commercialism that cost us social unrest and loss of lives and resources is nothing but fatuous.

In order to control sensationalism, favoritism and commercialism it is imperative to engender support and collectiveness amongst each other organ. As it is always stated, whenever any organ of the government becomes rogue, another pulls it back and ensures its principled functioning in the society. Hence, the government must ensure the “independence of media” by providing various incentives and criminalising those who promotes their interests and opinions with the help of media. Private media,journalists who are under extreme pressure by government must take cognizance about the gravity of the issue and voice out their grievances out loud and by practicing neutral. There must be several media monitoring agencies that aim at checking the authenticities of facts and information which are being disseminated to the public at large. Strict penalties to those, who aims at promulgating such inciting information’s. Retraction of the reporter who is engaged in such practices and educate him about the perils and sensitize him towards the society at large is another way by which sensationalism can be defeated. Another way is to ‘Respond’, any individual who is aware of the actual information must respond and react to such wrongs. 

Amidst the shackles of untrammeled information’s, it is important for citizens to believe and rely upon trusted sources and papers that are neutral and have no opinions of their own. The government must protect journalists who are subjected to violence and threat and must take cognizance against the miscreants engaged in reaping such social and economic debacles. The judiciary of our country must take Suo Motu cognizance against such incidents and must incriminate those government/ government officials who are engaged in seeking their own interests through disharmony. Also, the government along with the judiciary must keep a strict check on the capitalistic execution of broadcasting in both private as well as government-aided media platforms. It is important to understand that the media practitioners should have the freedom to practice their journalistic duties, however, this freedom should be exercised with responsibility. The ethics of journalism must be taken care and exercised properly. Sensationalism and commercialism in media can only be reduced when there’s a proper exercise of separation of powers and proper checks and balances. 

In a proper and developed democracy, the media is conceptualized as the “ Fourth estate “ which must be allowed to function independent of government to maintain a system of checks and balances. As rightly stated – democracy is a government of, for and by the people, thus it is important to function within the limits of the powers vested in each organ. With the collective effort of the society at large the issue of sensationalism can be stultified. What required is awareness and sensitisation amongst the population and a feeling of responsibility and accountability of these organs towards people.  As rightly cited by Franklin D Roosevelt,“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of democracy are not a president or senators and congressmen and government officials.But the voters of the country “. Hence, to guise citizens and deceit them from the truth actually mar the trust towards the organs of the democracy and perishes cohesiveness,unity and secularism in the society. 

Towards the conclusion, media has a greater responsibility than it is perceived .It is an instrument for shaping ones ideas and a medium to change the recourse of various aberrant beliefs and ideas in any nation. In India, The media, so far has been fundamental in revolutionising and empowering citizens of our country. However, being such an important tool of the democracy, it is susceptible to be misused for vested political or commercial interests which has to be set aside by the media itself. Media is that tool that affects and controls the belief system of any individual.The people believe what the media tells them to believe .Thus whoever controls the media, controls the mind of masses in the nation. Therefore, it is paramount for the media to work independent of any external control and capitalistic interest .At the end, media and social media is the most powerful tool for change in the civilian hands. We must use the responsibility to shape the world in which we live and be responsible towards it. 

About the author

Anchita Saxena is a 3rd-year law student from Amity Law School, Noida. She has a great interest in areas of human rights and aims to pursue a field that helps her connect with people to bring about positive changes in their lives. She is also passionate about the welfare of animals. She has interned at various esteemed organizations and has taken an active part in various article writing competitions and also presented several research papers on numerous segments of law. Apart from law, she is a keen enthusiast of fine arts, and also has her own blog where she writes about fictional stories and poetries. She is a dedicated and hard-working person and seeking a path to excel in her chosen field.

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