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The Role of the Media

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

That the media is the fourth pillar of a democracy, after Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive, is beyond any doubt true. A mature and vibrant and responsible media reflects the maturity of a democratic system notwithstanding the occasional rumours that some media persons are in the pay roll of this state or that or this political party or that, with the result that the reporting is biased, glossed or prejudiced. One must not forget that the media persons too have their leanings, their ideologies and their affiliations and consequently they too have their specific viewpoint on various issues confronting the society. This is true of the print media as also the Radio and the Television. In this connection the coverage of the Common Wealth Games held in Delhi is a point in question. Up to the run up of the games day in and day out there were comments on the facilities created for the games and the sports persons participating in the games. Delhi witnessed un-precedented rains during September and consequently there were water logging, traffic snarls as also damage to the infra-structure. The media was quick to question the ability, the intent and the sincerity of the persons and institutions involved with the organization of the games. This was further compounded by highlighting the security lapses and the health hazards like the outbreak of the epidemic of dengue. There was such a fearful hysteria created by the media that at one time it appeared as if the whole project was going to collapse. This resulted in some sportsmen deciding not to take part in the games.

One can understand such a coverage given by the foreign media, who still believe that India is a place of beggars and snake-charmers but what about our own media? They should have realised that in the modern world when broadcast and telecast is available to large sections of the population, the media plays a vital role in building an opinion on anything. The negative reporting was so severe that even the people living in Delhi began to feel that the whole affair was going to end in a fiasco. Nobody pointed out the good side of the arrangements. For example no body highlighted that whereas sports persons were accommodated in university hostels with limited facilities both in Bejing and Melbourne, a whole new games village with all modern facilities had been readied in Delhi. When the opening ceremony was held in the Nehru stadium, all the spectators and television watchers were spellbound by the grandeur and excellence of the event. The prophets of doom had to eat a humble pie. To say the least, the media had acted in an irresponsible manner. There was a debate whether pointing out shortcomings and irregularities was patriotic or unpatriotic. This discussion is neither here nor there. What is important is giving an overall realistic picture and creating a healthy optimistic opinion.

Recently there was another historic event in which again the media played a vital role in building a view point. That was about the court verdict on Ayodhya dispute. First of all a fear psychosis was created that since the decision was going in favour of one of the two communities involved in the case, there was bound to be communal clash. The verdict came and everyone without exception respected the decision, with of course reservations about taking further legal course as available under the law. Majority of the people interviewed on television and those who took part in various discussions on the subject hailed the court verdict as balanced and far-sighted. There was, however, a minority opinion that found it flawed on technicalities. It was surprising to see that the majority view was side-tracked by certain media channels whereas the negligible opposite view was telecast and re-telecast ad-nauseam. Thank heavens and thank the matured disposition of the Indian masses, this did not create any wedge in the society.  Good sense prevailed and today there is a mature reaction to the court decision and many scholars on both sides have shown willingness to reach an agreement by discussion across the table.

Thus it will be seen that important as the media is in a democratic set up, it has to be responsible, sensitive and cautious because it plays a decisive role in shaping the public opinion on various problems confronting the society as also the world at large. It has not only to be truthful in its news and views and reporting but has to be conscious of the outcome of all that goes on air and in print. The verdict in the High court was that the disputed area in Ayodhya be divided into three parts and one part each be given to Muslims for constructing the mosque, to Hindus for constructing the Rama Temple and to the Akhara for their legitimate use. The litigant parties went in appeal to the Supreme Court of India. The Apex court has disagreed with the decision of the lower court on the plea that there was no request from any party for the division of the disputed land. So the situation is back to square one.

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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