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Suppression Of Expression

The mighty State Power is trying hard to destroy the Press in a fancy way, across the globe. In different parts of the world, Governments have come out with new laws in order to negate the old ones. One of the newly introduced laws allows the State to put journalists in jails on charges of sedition in India. Interestingly, the main aim of the State is not to punish journalists, but to stop them from speaking the Truth. Perhaps, the State believes that others shall not dare to enjoy their freedom as journalists. It may be noted that Indian journalist Siddique Kappan continues to languish in jail with no access even to the charge-sheet filed by the Police before a Mathura court. Forty-one-year-old Kappan was arrested on October 5, 2021 while on his way to northern Indian town of Hathras to report the brutal gangrape and murder of a lower-caste girl by some upper-caste men.

It is said that “The Freedom of the Press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a Democracy in which the Government is accountable to the People. A Free Media function as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing“. (American Civil Liberties Union) In short, Freedom of the Press is important for the smooth functioning of Democracy. It is important for people to be socially aware of happenings in the world. One must have the power to criticise the Government, as it will keep the administration on their toes to do better for the country.

The media are commonly considered as the bearer and protector of Democracy. Once, Irish-born British Philosopher Edmund Burke (January 12, 1729 – July 9, 1797) had called the press the fourth pillar of Democracy. English Philosopher John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) had reportedly said: “Truth can only be discovered in the marketplace of ideas through freely expressed adversaries.” Journalists, who are truly investigative, as well as committed, can lunge forward in order to discover this truth, and inform the people about the same, through the media. In a study report, the International Press Institute has mentioned that Freedom of Press is violated in almost all countries. In its latest report, Reporters Without Borders, too, has stated that India ranks 150th in the list of Press Freedom. In 2016, the South Asian nation occupied the 133rd position. It shows the decline in Freedom of the Press in India.

Courtesy: Times Of India

Needless to say, some have become so opportunistic while enjoying the Freedom (of the Press), the Press has lost its Freedom. The Press has lost its uniqueness because of some opportunistic and selfish people. As long as the State did not interfere in the production of news, the Press was somewhat neutral, as well as independent. From the moment some people started using neutrality and Freedom of Press for their own vested interests, India began to fall in the index of Freedom of Press. Editors, reporters and the media are divided today for their survival in the era of State interference. In fact, Reporters Without Borders has portrayed the true and real picture of Freedom of Press in the 21st Century world.

A lot of newsprints have been wasted by discussing the Freedom of Press, and the Freedom of media persons. Still, the majority of people have admitted that they are not at all worried about it. Lord Victor Alexander George Robert Bulwer-Lytton, the then Viceroy of British India (governed in 1876-80), had enacted the Vernacular Press Act to prevent the vernacular Indian press from criticising British policies after the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). Although this Act has ceased to exist, the state apparatus continues to interfere in production of news even in Independent India. It, thus, is no wonder that the country has secured the 150th position in the Press Freedom Index.

One should not forget the fact that journalists, too, are human beings. Like common people, they also have needs, as well as expectations. Yet they take risks, as most of them have opted for the profession voluntarily. Journalists are the mirror of minds of the common people who are accustomed to live in peace, without any disturbance. Media persons, risking their lives, inform people about important political and social issues. Incidentally, they are citizens of the State against which they exhibit exemplary courage while covering events in an impartial manner. At the same time, they are also aware of their responsibilities towards the State. The State often refuses to accept the fact that criticism of the Government does not mean sedition. According to Political Science, impartial news coverage strengthens the basic foundation of Democracy, thus helping the State easily identify its shortcomings and safeguard the system.

UN slams India…

Socialism or Democracy, there has always been a distance between the Rulers and the common people. The contexts of British India and Independent India are completely different. However, the South Asian nation is yet to get rid of the Colonial Hangover. Even the journalists know that India still follows its past. Hence, it may be said that the Press is struggling to perform its duty impartially in Independent India, as during the time of Colonial India.

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