September 3, 2020

Ethical Dilemma With Respect To Media

We have three pillars of democracy – legislature, executive & judiciary. A system of checks and balances is in place to keep everyone accountable to the system. Media also keeps accountability with respect to all the three organs of the state & hence is called the 4th pillar of democracy. It acts as the guardian of public interest & a bridge between people & state. All the information with respect to the activities of the state, whether it is social, political, economic or cultural has to be ultimately taken to the doorsteps of the people through media. It keeps vigil over the government as it is part of a thought process of the state. In India the freedom of press has been treated as a part of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed as explained in the Article 19(1) a of the constitution but this right is not absolute but qualified as reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of sovereignty & integrity of the country public order, decency & morality .The media serve the people with the news, ideas, information on all matters of public importance in a fair, accurate & impartial manner. This is very foundation of what we call as “Objective journalism “. But what we see off late is that media is not focusing on key public issues but on issues focused only on TRP’s

Case Study; Sushant Singh Rajput: Sushant Singh Rajput was one of the talented actors of Bollywood who recently passed away. Initial investigation suggests it was a suicide. With many expressing the belief that it was a murder, the case was transferred to CBI. This case would be investigated & culprits will be punished if it is a murder .But media is focusing too much on his case that has completely dwarfed the coverage of multiple grave problems facing the country. Apart from this, it also raises a couple of concerns as well:

a) Media and Due Process: If there are people responsible & found to be guilty, they should be punished after an investigation has been conducted as per the due process of law but what media is trying to influence the outcome of a case. It is becoming an investigating agency, court & declaring & pronouncing whether the person is guilty or not .Some channels claim that they have received much of the information on the case from investigative agencies ranging from the Enforcement Directorate to the CBI. The authorities need to verify if such claims are true. And if they are proved to be false, legal action should be taken against the offending channels. However, if their claims are true, this is a matter of greater concern because it could bring into serious doubt the reputation of India’s premier investigative agencies that may stand accused of making public details of an ongoing investigation and violating service rules.

The fourth pillar of democracy should have a well defined goal & work within that boundary & contour instead of becoming the judge, jury & investigation officers

b) Privacy And Reputation: In the present case of Sushant Sing Rajput, there is another person who is being accused. If it is proved, then the law will take its course but what is happening is that media is accusing her by violating her privacy & reputation. Say if tomorrow, it is found that she was not involved then what about the reputation, consequences & trauma due to this media trail?

c) Real Issues Sidelined: Real issues are being side-lined & non real issues are being projected as real news. Real issue concerning the nation is pandemic that shows no sign of abating with cases rising exponentially and putting the public health system under unbearable strain. Real issue is declining GDP, job losses & border dispute with China. Instead of focusing on these issues, media is focusing on TRP’s .Because of all this, the 4th pillar of democracy is not working in a fruitful manner

Conclusion: Objective Journalism which should have been the idea is now being replaced with profit, agenda setting & media trial. Media should focus on the issues that are relevant to the common masses. The fourth pillar of democracy should have a well defined goal & work within that boundary & contour instead of becoming the judge, jury & investigation officers

(The author is an RTI activist & a member of Youth Parliament J&K. Views is his own) [email protected]

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