Navigating New Media Terrain
As much as the world talks about the need for a free press for ages, hailing it as a powerful tool to bring about change and fight injustice, there have been attempts from various quarters, especially people in power, to arm-twist it to suit their taste and narrative. This ordeal continues to this day. Besides human interference, the internet, which brought about a dramatic transformation to the way information is disseminated, has affected the traditional media as much as it has eased news production. The latest entrant is artificial intelligence (AI), which has also raised several ethical concerns, including the possibility of manipulating the algorithm used in the technology, as it can only be as unbiased as the data it is fed with. This is why the theme is “Media in the Era of Artificial Intelligence” for this year’s National Press Day. While the technology will no doubt have a transformative impact on media markets despite its limitations, it is more suitable for tasks that are repetitive, at least for now. The press will continue to stand apart for years to come as it values news production based on principles like accuracy, objectivity, fairness, humanity, creativity, and accountability.
More than technology, the bigger threat to the press is humans, who are behind all the technological innovations and algorithms, as well as those in power. In a startling report, the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) said that a total of 194 journalists were targeted, including fatal ones, detentions, and threats, across India in 2022 by both state and non-state actors. This certainly does not reflect a free and responsible press India wants to champion by observing National Press Day on November 16 every year. While the report of no targeted cases being reported in Nagaland is commendable, it doesn’t mean that the press in the state enjoys freedom. The paradox of rampant corruption on one hand and the lack of in-depth reports, exposing such cases on the other, need to be analysed and the truth unearthed. We will see the real picture only when political, social, and ethnic undercurrents, as well as armchair journalism, are done away with, because problems crop up only when journalists rub shoulders with people in power while pursuing justice. But then, a closer look at the media across the world takes us to a concerning trend- dancing to the tunes of the governments, as is evident in the coverage of the ongoing conflicts, be it in Ukraine, Gaza, Myanmar, or Manipur. If the media allows favouritism and people in power to curate content, AI stands a better chance to win. Human interference, whether it is from within or outside, should be checked.