Author: Anurag Moga, Student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali.
India is considered as the largest democratic country worldwide, due to its wide diversity, its proper functioning is based upon three main pillars namely: Executive, Judiciary and Legislation. But in actual terms, Media is considered to be the fourth pillar to operate the Indian democracy. However, in countries such as China, the role of Media is limited to an extent. In China, Media is only a communication channel that is controlled by the Chinese government.
Thomas Carlyle was the first person to express the Media as ‘Fourth Pillar of Democracy’, later supported by various other authors too. In a democracy, government officials are elected by competent voters for the efficient functioning of its main organs.
Democracy is defined as a good government chosen by the people itself, for their own welfare and interests. Freedom of speech and expression is available to every individual in a democracy, including media.
MEANING OF MEDIA
In simple words, Media is a communication channel for the citizens of a nation, to get updates regarding the happening and non-happening of events. Media is categorized in 3 broad terms that is Print Media, Electronic Media and Social Media. The main function of Media is to keep an eye check over the functions performed by the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. The duty systematically performed by the Media helps to reduce the uncertainty and maintain balances in the Indian context. Disclosure of relevant information relating to issues of social, economic and political nature to the general public, brings transparency in Indian systems.
The primary aim of Media is to provide accurate and relevant information to a wide range of perspectives before individuals, but the facts of the news have been twisted or deviated from their original route to achieve higher TRP by national news channels. Nowadays the pre-built way of suppressing issues of national interest is the deviation of news which deprives people of getting justice.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The basic rights provided in the constitution are of two types, one is implied and another is expressed. The rights which are written in the articles of the constitution are called express rights whereas the implied right is interpreted by the Supreme Court from time to time.
The Brij Bhushan vs the State of Delhi was the first matter of Freedom of the Press. The Commissioner of Police of Delhi issued an order against a weekly newspaper, by which the printer, publisher and editor of that paper were directed to send all kinds of communal matters news and satirical images related to Pakistan for official inspection before publication. And if the government gives permission then only it will publish. The Supreme Court had declared this order unconstitutional and said that blocking any newspaper is a violation of Press freedom and declared that Freedom of the press is a part of article 19(1)(a).
In Virendra vs State of Punjab (1957), the Supreme Court had given a decision that stopping a newspaper from publishing its views on the subject of immediate importance is an encroachment of freedom of speech and expression.
In the case of Romesh Thoppar versus the State of Madras, 1959. The Madras State had issued an order under section 9(1-A) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act,1949 and prohibited the transmission of the “crossroads” magazine to the state, the Hon’ble Supreme Court declared the order as illegal because broadcasting a newspaper or magazine is an essential part of its freedom.
In the landmark case of Sakal Papers v. Union Of India, 1960. By enforcing The Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, the Central Government had determined the maximum number of newspapers page and its value. This act was challenged on the basis that it hurts the freedom of the press and it is an encroachment of the freedom of the press. under this system, the publishers could have increased the value of their newspapers but could not increase their page number. Due to the government orders the price increases but there is a lack of space for the publication of news, ideas, etc. The Court did not accept the government’s logic and declared the order invalid. The Apex Court said that it cannot take away the freedom of speech and expression to ban the business activity of a citizen. These freedoms can be restricted only on the grounds given in article 19(2), the government cannot restrict the freedom of other newspapers to serve the purpose of protecting small and new newspapers.
ROLE AND FUNCTIONS OF MEDIA
Media is a powerful weapon used by the renowned journalist to show the happening of events, deals, crimes, innovations, elections, disease outbreaks, exposure of anti-national activities etc. plus millions of other events or activities are shown globally. Media expose the harsh reality of the real world to the general public like a mirror image. Renowned journalists through their paper power in continuity raises issues that remind the government to fulfil promises made in the past. It is an information bridge that helps to prevent discrimination between governing bodies and the general public and reduces the potential for a personality cult, bring issues of corruption to light and exposes malpractices. Various news channels promote debates and discussions on issues of national interest. The main methods used by the media to cover all types of accurate information and news are news channels, social media platforms and newspapers. To connect with people appropriately, all these modes of communication are available in multiple languages. Nowadays the social media handles such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are also stepping, but they cause trouble by broadcasting fake news. They show disguised news and predominantly these are slanted towards corporate promotions, entertainment and politics on the paid basis. Today’s Media is a double-sided weapon, earlier media is considered as an Accountable Media but gradually it is turning its image towards becoming unaccountable media. Circulation of news and honest facts to the general public is the primary duty of the Media and, if the Media fails to do so then Public interest will suffer and ultimately leads to the destruction of Democracy.
IS THE ACT OF MEDIA IS UNACCOUNTABLE?
It is absolutely true that in some places the media has played its role properly whether it is to bring out the 1992 SCAM or to punish the 2012 Nirbhaya Gang rape convicts, but due to a change in the nature of Media puts a question mark on the authenticity of news displayed. Media is used as a puppet by politicians or businessmen. In India, Polarized politics and religious sentiments deviate the news from its original issue. People started ignoring the facts due to unreasonable or unwanted coverage done by the Media. Due to an unaccountable media, corruption in society and delay in justice increases day by day. Paid news and polarized politics is the basis of enlarged corruption during the election campaign. Media is an independent entity but paid news syndrome is drowning it in dirty politics. In recent years, the inquiry is set up on the role of media,
The media has been under allegations for hiding information and tampering with the news in exchange for money. Whether it is the Niira Radia Tape Case of 2010 and sting operations done on media houses by a portal called Cobrapost, everyone has exposed the character of the media. Denying people necessary information by serving non-essential news has become the hallmark of the media. It is worth mentioning that journalism was very serious about its mission before independence, the media was aware of the people and by highlighting the spirit of nationalism in them, they continued on their path. But it seems that in the present-day journalism has deviated from its duty and goals. In recent years, some examples can be seen, such as the first news of demonetization created an atmosphere of fear in society. It was also ridiculous to cover the news of the thousands of tons of gold buried in Daundia Khera village of Unnao (UP) a few years ago, while on the other hand, the so-called Babas and superstitions also got a wider place in the news. Consequently, some years have been full of turmoil, but the media has failed to make responsible reporting with impartiality, so media groups are being considered as advocates of different political parties. This problem is becoming a threat to democracy, instead of highlighting the problems of the youth, the pride of the village is being hidden. Due to TRP, Breaking News and Commercial Advertising Competition, the Media has forgotten the purpose of building society, this shows how the media has derailed and the attempt to create a responsible citizen in the society has been jolted.
REASON FOR THE CHANGING NATURE OF THE MEDIA
In such a situation, the question is about the reason for the changing nature of the media, as it is mentioned that due to hiding or exposing the news in lieu for money, there have been constant questions on the media. Hence the media’s inclination towards political parties and the corporate world is a big reason, apart from this the other big reason is the lack of media freedom. There is a need for a stubborn and fearless environment for accurate reporting. The World Press Freedom Index 2020, released by the Paris-based NGO, ‘Reporters Without Borders’ (RWF), ranked India 142nd in its report as against 140 in 2019. Freedom of expression in India is evident, the challenges in maintaining true journalism are constantly increasing.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
It’s becoming a myth that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy. The freedom of media in the World Press Freedom Index shows how the media is being affected politically, usually by the role of the ruling party.
When the government interferes with the media’s actions then it will be difficult to highlight the government’s flaws in such a situation, the media must continue to do its work honestly, they should give the right news, this will automatically thwart the efforts of the control of the media houses.
The owners of media houses will also have to be conscious of the longing to become members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It is understood that the mixing of journalism and politics gives political parties a chance to control the media. The Section 15 of the Press Council Act, 1978 should be amended which discusses the general power of the Press Council. The Press Council of India has been given the responsibility to investigate paid news but not any right to act. This powerless law cannot be meaningful until it gets the right to act.
Apart from this, it is also a big challenge for the Indian readers too because UK’s newspaper Independent had decided to close its print edition and become an online newspaper due to expensive rates. Indian readers are not ready to pay high rates and it is probably the only product in the world that sold at a price much lower than its cost.
There should be a balanced distance between the government and the media, so that the government does not involve unnecessarily in the work of the media.
The lack of investigative journalists in the media is also a problem, most of the serious news is broadcasted by mainstream media after it goes viral on social media. Media also needs to be regulated, The Press Council of India Association should be empowered to curb the arbitrariness of electronic media and print media. There should be some strict legal scope for the media and there should be a provision for punishment if wrong news is found. In today’s era, everyone is getting involved with newspapers and social media, if the media will spread false news and biased news then it will have a very serious impact on the country/society and all the ways of justice for the public will be closed.
 1950 SCR 605
 1958 SCR 308
 1950 SCR 594
 1962 AIR 305
 1992 CriLJ 4032
 (2017) 3 SCC 719
 (2014) 1 SCC 93