Speech on the Important Role of Media in Democracy

Democracy gives you freedom—’the right to free speech’. The media through television channels, the Internet, and newspapers assume the role of the moral guardian in society. More than often, we depend on the media to seek the truth. But truth is subjective. What is truth to you might not be the truth to me. Therefore, the media is expected to carefully analyse a situation from all possible angles rather than merely pass a fixed moral judgment.

Till the late 1980s, the media in India was largely limited to Doordarshan and All India Radio, both strictly monitored and censored by the government. Thus when Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984, the average Indian had no idea whether she was alive or dead even hours after the tragic event.

But the BBC had already let the world know that the Prime Minister of India had been shot dead. Channels like Star Plus, Star Sports, BBC and CNN stormed into the Indian television network in the early 1990s. The BBC, by its detailed coverage of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, made it clear that the media in India had to adapt to changes in portraying the truth.

By the end of the 1990s, the number of news channels through satellite, was simply mind-boggling. News on television was suddenly very big business. A plethora of TV serials and movies from all over the world also stormed into our lives. But it gets dangerous when news channels try to become entertainment channels and newspapers desperate to survive in a ‘dog eat dog world’ stoop to abysmally poor levels of vulgarity. Quality has always been inversely proportional to quantity. The media is no exception.

In today’s world, finding a decent news channel which portrays serious news can be challenging. Even newspapers respected all over the nation seem to be more obsessed with adding the latest gossip to their Page 3 than dealing with issues which concern the common man. Thus, an honest engineer like Satyendra Dubey who was most brutally murdered by the mafia in Bihar appears in and vanishes from the newspaper before we blink an eyelid but we are regularly reminded of Paris Hilton’s pets!

Prestigious news channels devote hours of prime time to the post mortem of a reality show. There are some Cassandras as well who are on a mission to find out if it is full stop for the human civilisation in the year 2012. A spicy gossip is what the media wants to make out of every serious news item. Certain hosts on crime awareness programmes are so frightening in their approach that you feel that the world is soon going to end.

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield should be the motto of the media. The media shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that the sacred foundation stones supporting the superstructure of modern India as a ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic’ are not fiddled with. It has to hold a mirror to the conscience of the society. A democratic society preyed on by an irresponsible media with a ravenous greed for power can cause the social fabric to tear and the Indian giant would be reduced to a ramshackle edifice ready to crumble like a pack of cards.