Media Of Expression
It was once when the pen of a journalist had the reputation of being more powerful than a sword! Powerful people used to rely upon soldiers in the hope of escaping from the harsh words… Still, they had to face criticism! It is said that the pens of Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu had triggered the French Revolution. Émile Zola had shaken the Government of France almost single-handedly over the injustice done to Alfred Dreyfus, a French Artillery Officer of Jewish ancestry, whose trial and conviction in 1894 on charges of treason became one of the most controversial and polarising political dramas in Modern French History. India had won her Independence in 1947 because of the words and works of many thinkers, such as M K Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajani Palme Dutt, M N Roy and others. Mao Zedong‘s Red Book inspired revolutionaries in various countries across the globe. Victor Hugo had once remarked: “You can resist an invading Army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”
The journalists used to enjoy a special status because the media were considered as a key element of Democracy. If a Government is to be run on the basis of mass opinion, then it needs to be information-based. After the broadsheets were introduced in the late 17th Century, their popularity grew rapidly in most countries, especially in mega cities, in the 18th and 19th Centuries. However, a decline in the number of newspapers was observed in the last decade of the 20th Century! And, the 21st Century has brought various new challenges, prompting journalists to get involved in business and other communication activities…
Television had initially emerged as the first competitor of newspapers. People used to read dailies in the morning even after receiving news through the radio in the 20th Century. However, the television has changed the habit of the people by providing news throughout the day and night! Hence, the busy people started deducting the cost of purchasing newspapers. The second and most formidable rival of the print media is Internet. Only those, who are not that tech- savvy, interested in reading news, and moreover having surplus money, have become regular subscribers of broadsheets. Most of the dailies have online versions, and the Netizens can read all the important news online at any time and without bearing any extra cost. As a result, the number of newspapers is constantly declining in almost all the countries, and the livelihood of journalists is, thus, getting endangered! At one time, the main source of income of Media Houses was advertisement by Private or State-run organisations. Now, these advertisements appear on Television and Internet, too. Once, Australia-born American media mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch had called the Newspaper Business a ‘Golden Stream’. Later, he admitted that its current was rapidly waning. The popularity of newspapers is relatively high in those countries where the usage of computers and smartphones still rate somewhat lower.
Experts believe that the declining popularity of broadsheets has dire consequences! Dailies, which used to collect and serve news items without fear, have realised their weaknesses all of a sudden, and have started safeguarding their existence! They have turned out to fall as easy prey for the Capitalists, as their economic bases have been shaken. Quite a few newspapers have disappeared in the last few decades, as the ownerships of those dailies have passed into the hands of Business Groups. Also, the fear of withdrawal of advertisements has curtailed the Press Freedom!
There is another important issue… the Authenticity of news items! Now, there are various sources of news. With the growing popularity of Television News Channels, the number of suppliers of news increases, as well! In many cases, there are vested interests in providing information. Common people are well aware of this. As a result, people have lost their faith in journalists, and more than often, they tend to ignore the real news as fake!
As expected, opportunistic power-hungry Governments of various countries are taking advantage of this situation. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed in the Philippines in the name of curbing crime in the last couple of years. However, the Filipino Government has claimed that the number is just 300! The local dailies, often, do not have the courage to reveal the fact. The Government of the Philippines plans to send noted Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa to jail for leaking the truth. During the reign of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, almost all the Turkish dailies cover pieces of news in the same tone. There lies hardly a scope to publishing different opinions in Russia or China. The broadsheets would have to face dire consequences, if they hurt the images of the Premiers or Presidents in these countries! The scenario is the same in India.
Attempts have been made to silence the press even in Democratic countries! Outgoing US President Donald Trump has reportedly humiliated journalists many a time in recent times. Publishing Anti-Government News is not an easy task in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and other South Asian nations. Two newsmen from Reuters have been jailed in Myanmar for covering Rohingya-related news! During the National Emergency (1975-77), the then Prime Minister of India – Indira Gandhi – was seen throttling the Press Freedom.
Fearless and informative news coverage help people make political decisions. Hence, the State Power is gradually cornering the Fourth Pillar of Democracy in the 21st Century. With the current trend, as well as the quantity and quality of Authentic News, does one conjecture that the death-knell of journalists has been sounded?
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