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Op-Ed

Media is an essential part of democracy

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By EMN Updated: Nov 15, 2014 9:34 pm
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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]aluting to all the hero and heroine journalists across the globe on the eve of the ‘National Press Day’ on the 16th of November which is observing throughout the nation, with a symbolic of free and responsible press. The journalists around the world in varying contexts risk their lives daily in unprotected situations to act in public interest by bringing stories, to share experiences and to impartially report unfolding situations with the hope to inform and empower people to make knowledgeable decisions and actions. It is the desire of most journalists to reveal the truth, promote justice and peace; facilitate pluralism and encourage political and cultural expressions. Hence the public institution of the media is a critical necessity to every democracy. A press that is constrained by rigid polities, restrictive legislations, intimidation or societal dogma indicates the lack of democratic principles and practices. The empirical truth has quite clearly indicated that there can be no free press if journalists exist in conditions of poverty, corruption and fear. This in turn has direct implications on the society and its democratic values. Any deliberate assault on the institutions of the free press therefore is seen as an attack on not just democracy but the people that make up the society. By this, one does not simply imply any isolated act against members of the institution; rather it means any systematic or deliberate action that threatens, intimidates and assaults the very idea of a free press; and in essence the very people that make up the institution of the media. Invariably the concept of a free press is naturally connected to the idea of safety.And in an increasingly polarized world which is characterized by exclusivity, public mistrust, rising violence and fear, the idea of safety has become very relative. In the Naga context, the institution of the press needs to be strengthened. While it has weathered many difficult circumstances and assumed an important role in the narratives of the progression of society, it still needs to work on consolidating public trust and assume a more deliberate role in shaping and enabling democratic change. The gap between the institution of the press and the society is widening, and as a result the press has in recent times become a vulnerable and soft target to those who seek to intimidate the press. A free Naga press is of absolute necessity. Therefore to ensure the growth and vibrancy of a free press it is crucial for public protest against any undemocratic assault on the institutions of the press. Simultaneously, it is also important that the press takes upon itself the responsibility to reflect and articulate the view and opinions of the people in the public arena. It remains a question whether civil society and the press in the Naga context is relating in a complimentary manner. The media houses were threatened by some militant groups for refusing to entertain their press notes which were not “worthy of being a news item”. It is also a part of nonsense of the militant where it forces the press media to publish extortion note to someone. In such condition, how can media work freely in the interest of the people?
This is not a fair one, this is against the ethics of the media fraternity and they should not interfere with the freedom of the media in order to bring out an effective functioning of a democracy. Media can play a watchdog role by reporting on various activities of the government, the civil societies and private sectors. However in India, especially in Northeast journalist are increasingly becoming target of attack by various forces, including militant groups, political parties and criminal who get protection and patronage of politicians.
A free press is very important and essential for effective functioning of a democracy. A free press has also been described as the democracy; one cannot survive without other. Freedom of press has remained an issue that has led to endless number of debates across the democratic world in the past few decades. Interestingly, while freedom of expression is a fundamental right as stated in Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights made exactly 60 years ago, it is also in the Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian constitution that covers freedom of press in our country. While empowerment itself is a multi- dimensional social and political process that helps people gain control over their own lives, it is none other than a global body like UNESCO which has also emphasized that this empowerment could be only achieved through access to accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a pluralistic of opinion, and the means to actively communicate vertically and horizontally, thereby participating in the active life of the community. May I take the liberty of quoting the verbatim from the UNESCO note on the world press freedom day in which it also said; “However, in order to make freedom of expression a reality, a legal and regulatory environment must exist that allows for an open and pluralistic media sector to emerge; political will to support the sector and the rule of law to protect it must also exist; and there must be law ensuring access to information in the public domain. The news consumers must have the necessary media skills to critically analyze and synthesize the information they receive to use it in their daily lives and to hold the media accountably for its action, media professional are also required to adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards. All these elements together serve as the fundamental infrastructure on which freedom of expression and freedom of media can prevail. Though many would not like to openly admit or accept it, journalism is a profession and a craft which, when compared to various other occupation including medicine and law, stands apart by virtue of its special in a free society. Journalists have to shoulder greater responsibilities particular in a period of crisis, be it natural or political. The media becomes the eyes and ears of the people during the time of a natural disaster, political crises or say, terrorist attack. The people then immensely depend upon the media as their primary and sometimes their only source of information. The freedom of press has remained a continuing debate on various occasion while, the media is very often threatened by censorship, journalists are forced and coerced to reveal sources, abducted, beaten up, brutalized and killed. Increasing incidents of attack on media persons including brutal murder is just enough to prove this point. Before I conclude, I have three humble submissions to make. One let us emphasized on having a media- be it print or electronic- which not only gives due importance to recruiting trained and professionally qualified persons, but also lays stress on up gradation of skills of its existing manpower on a regular basis. Two, organizations that are directly or indirectly related to people (government departments, army, judiciary, etc) need to empower the people by way of empowering the media with various information that are of public importance. And three, let us all emphasize on increasing media literacy among the member of the civil society, so that the society too can make necessary interventions from time to time by way of participating in the media instead of remaining as passive customers. Therefore, the denizens across the country should be vehemently condemned against the attacking to the media in the various part of the country and all the militants of the country should avoid suck kind of act towards the media as the media plays an important and essential for effective function of the democracy. The developmental and hopes and aspiration of the people in the country could be accomplish if the militants and peoples in general of the nations maintained and adhere the role of media. “Don’t interfere with media’s freedom of expression, Stop targeting media, and allow media to work freely,’ in the interest of the common people of the nation.
‘Kuknalim’

Tsong’s K. Yim. Journalist,
Tuensang district.

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By EMN Updated: Nov 15, 2014 9:34:25 pm