What is freedom of press?

Every democratic country needs a certain number of pillars, such as the legislature, the executive branch, the courts, and the media. In the past, traders, caravans, musicians, and officials mostly told stories, songs, and lullabies, or banged drums in public to pass along information.

However, the truthfulness of these sources cannot be predicted. The history of the press can be traced back to 1566, when the first handwritten avisis or gazettes were published in Venice, Italy. The main goal of this report is to examine political and military action. In the context of India, however, it may be dated back to the late 18th century, when James Augustus Hickey produced the first Indian newspaper, the Bengal Gazette.

The contribution of the press to India’s liberation movement and independence cannot be forgotten. The majority of the country’s populace felt a sense of patriotism after reading the newspaper. Press aids not only in disseminating awareness but also in educating India’s uneducated population. In response to the press-generated public unrest, the colonial administration established the Licensing Act of 1857 and the Vernacular Act of 1858 to regulate and control Indian journalism.

Despite understanding the centrality of the press, our constitution’s drafters omitted a section on this subject. In Romesh Thaper vs. State of Madras and Brij Bhushan vs. State of Delhi, it is the judiciary that develops the concept of freedom of the press by including it within the purview of fundamental article 19(1)(a), which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to each and every citizen.

It is acknowledged not just by the Indian government, but also by the U.S. government, which passed the First Amendment Act, how important press and speech freedom are for safeguarding democracy. As time passes, the role of the press evolves. from information transmission to government oversight and rising and falling religious conflict.

Press Media

Democracy and Press

Sometimes, democratic governments view the press as a friend or foe, depending on the stability of their regime. Even so, they attempted numerous times to restrict press freedom, as evidenced by the Indira Gandhi regime, particularly in June 1975. Press cannot be said to have a clean hand, as they are often found to make derogatory and unwarranted remarks about governments and celebrities. Regarding the future of the triumph of truth, the question of whether or not press freedom is permitted arises when examining the overall situation. If affirmative, to what extent?

How the press positively contributed to democracy:

In a time of inflation and rising prices, when everything is expensive, how can justice be provided for free? A typical person who is already battling with life’s demands and desires cannot seek justice. Even though he desires it, he lacks the means to obtain it. Here, the press plays a role. The press exposes these stories and garners nationwide support for these individuals.

So that the appropriate action can be taken by the relevant authorities. Case in point, the Nirbhaya Gang rape. In numerous instances where police refuse to file a report or government officials are unwilling to do their official duties, the press catches the perpetrators red-handed and delivers justice to the victims.

The media compel the judiciary to reexamine its verdict in the Jessica murder case, and Manu Sharma was ultimately sentenced to life in prison. Press is sometimes known as the government’s watchdog. It exposes numerous government scams. such as 2G spectrum, commonwealth game scam, Delhi’s CNG scam of Rs.100 crore in which former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung were involved, and Gujarat fisheries scam (400 crore) in which Gujarat ministers Purshottam Solanki and Dileepbhai Sanghani were accused of illegally granting fishing contracts for 58 reservoirs, etc.

It is the press that reveals the living conditions of prisoners awaiting trial and raises the issue of their human rights. According to an article published by India Today, 20-year-old Dinesh, who received bail in July 2010 after being arrested for two years, remained in jail for a longer period of time since no one came to free him. Even after writing a letter to his family, he has received no answer. He was uncertain whether his relatives received his letter [1].

Every citizen has the core human right of Right to Know. Press is the most effective tool a citizen can use to exercise this human right. Every odd decision made by the government is methodically and assiduously covered by the media. It informs citizens on the majority of government actions and policies and assists the government in educating citizens about each policy.

It also organises debates and discussions on these policies so that citizens can form an opinion after learning the merits and downsides of each. Press also facilitates mass unanimity on every topic, including #Me too. The objective of this agenda is to encourage women of all social backgrounds to come forward and report instances of sexual harassment they have experienced.

The media helps people feel like they belong to a group, regardless of their caste, creed, religion, sex, race, etc. The importance of the press during elections cannot be overlooked. Start with the nominations, a discussion of government work, a comparison of government work, a lot of coverage of speeches and rallies, polling, exit polling, and the formation of the government.

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By increasing public awareness, the press also contributes to the elimination of stereotypes, immoral, supernatural myths, and antiquated traditions from society. It is the media that unites the entire world into a community where people may learn about events occurring thousands of miles away from their homes. The media empower the citizen and improve democracy by giving a voice to the voiceless and exposing the shortcomings of the government.

How the press played a negative role in democracy: The pre-trial of a case when the media lacks its wisdom. The phrase “Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” means that all people are innocent until proven guilty. In the Hathras gang rape case of the year 2020, the case has not been decided, but the media have been conducting a trial against the accused since day one and even assume they are guilty. Due to press-instigated public outrage, the 2008 double murder case was rushed to a conclusion without adequate facts and evidence.

As in the instance of Rhea Chakraborty and Sushant Singh Rajput, it took a number of years for a person to establish their social image, but the media destroys it in an instant without sufficient evidence. The media’s unwarranted involvement into a police and government probe created a tumultuous situation.

As is evident from the 26/11 incident, the media told the terrorist from which entrance the crpf commandos were entering. When victims of sexual harassment collect the fortitude to battle against societal shame and report incidents to legal authorities, repeated unwelcome and nasty questions and accusations from the press irritate the victim and create a poor example for other victims. Indirectly, the media sometimes contributes to the development of religious intolerance in a nation.

It is not required to report every instance of religious intolerance. For instance, when Hindus hear that azaan is being chanted on the road or by loudspeaker, they begin chanting the Hanuman Chalisa on the roadways via loudspeaker. Two towns are engaged in an unending tug-of-war due to media coverage. The media also plays a significant part in terrorism. The media serve as a bridge between terror and terrorism.

The primary objective of terrorists and terrorism is to coerce others into accepting their ideology. By the media consistently publicising each and every terrorist act, terrorists often achieve their goals. Media is a vehicle for educating citizens. However, this form of schooling was frequently interrupted by unwelcome and unneeded advertising. The lack of age-specific classification of content for readers and viewers is a problem that is frequently overlooked.

Crimes with a higher profile, such as rape, murder, extramarital affair, drug use by celebrities, and fashion, will have negative effects on children. According to the bobo-doll experiment conducted by the psychologist Albert Bandura, toddlers will always learn by imitating the action they see. Another significant issue arises when the media is biassed or prejudiced.

The majority of individuals uncritically followed the report and content produced or viewed by the media without questioning its origin. With an uninformed audience, the case becomes more problematic. In this circumstance, the media generates a false perception of the public that lacks a foundational grasp of the matter. At election time, it is evident how effective the media is at creating political persuasion in favour of any party or against any party.

Information in the hands of the media can be a blessing and a curse at times. If Article 19(1) of our Constitution gives the media power, then restrictions should be based on sovereignty, integrity, decency, friendly relations with foreign governments, morality, defamation, and contempt of court.

This should not be forgotten by the media when providing information. Absolute media restrictions are not a good idea in this technologically advanced and modern time. We needed a rising trend, not a downward one. Part of what makes democracy work is getting more people to take part, and the media are a big part of that. To regulate the negative aspect of the media, however, a regulating authority is required.

In this body, all individuals and parties with respective interests should be represented equally. The media are also responsible for regulating and monitoring their own behavior. So, the ultimate goal of media, which is to help people and make the world a better place, can be reached.

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