The media’s role in ensuring a free flow of information, ideas and opinions remains a critical element in maintaining a healthy, fully-functioning democracy, says president of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (Matt) Suzanne Sheppard. She was speaking at yesterday’s panel discussion on the topic, Is there a real threat to freedom of the press in Trinidad and Tobago?
“As industry evolves beyond the radio and television stations, what we are seeing now is an array of social networks. However, one thing remains constant even as all these developments taking place is the role of the media as a watchdog has not changed,” Sheppard said. Also the editor of The Guardian newspaper, Sheppard said journalists, in carrying out their duties often encountered an “antagonistic” relationships with politicians.
“Journalism, when properly practised, frequently casts an uncomfortable spotlight on elected and selected Government and Opposition officials to ensure that they uphold their oaths of office and carry out the jobs they were placed there to do,” Sheppard said. Many, however, failed to understand the role of the media.
Sheppard referred to instances where personals attacks were made on media practitioners via e-mails or social networks. “This serves to intimidate media practioneers and can lead to a degree of self-censorship that is not healthy this country,” she said. Also speaking was Sunity Maharaj, editor of the T&T Review and director of the Lloyd Best Institute.
A former editor at the Express newspaper, she described press freedom as an invention of an aspiration to democracy. “It is invented as a method to give citizens information about the society in order to perform their duties and make decisions,” Maharaj said. As the media industry evolved, she said there were more women not only holding key positions but also entering the fast-paced newsrooms which were dominated by men.
The word ‘media’ is derived from the word medium, signifying mode or carrier. Media is intended to reach and address a large target group or audience. The word was first used in respect of books and newspapers i.e. print media and with the advent of technology, media now encompasses television, movies, radio and internet. In today’s world, media becomes as essential as our daily needs. Media of today is playing an outstanding role in creating and shaping of public opinion and strengthening of society.
Media is the sword arm of democracy. Media acts as watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice and create public awareness. Today when politicians are taking full advantage of their positions, an evil nexus of mafia and crime syndicate is making the life of the common man miserable, taxpayer’s money is siphoned out for the personal gain of the influential and ordinary people are a mere spectator-media has a grater responsibility As the fourth pillar of democracy along with judiciary, executive and legislature, media of today has an all embracing role to act against the injustice, oppression, misdeeds and partiality of our society.
From the days abode, media has remained an integral part of human civilization. From the days of Vedas and Upanishads to edicts of kings and emperors like Chandragupta, Asoka to the medieval Indian mass gatherings to the modern day’s audio video and print media, media has always taken a pivotal role in shaping our society. During the days of freedom struggle newspapers like Tilak’s Maratha, Mahatmaji’s young India acted as a platform to place the demands of common Indian and to express solitude with freedom fighters. Indian media in post independence era has grown up phenomenally and today comprises of more than 50,000 newspapers, hundreds of television and radio channels.
In this era of liberalistion, privatisation and globalisation(LPG) the world has reached our drawing room thanks to media. Since the introduction of television in our country in late 70’s visual media becomes a very potential tool in informing the current news to the society, entertaining the people and shaping up of public opinion. The World Wide Web and web 2.0 technologies have given rise to electronic media where even a common man can express views through blogs, website posts, facebook and twitter like social media. Coupled with traditional print media all these audio video and social media caters to a richly diversified media industry in India.
Media helps in fighting against corruption, nepotism, cronyism of institutional machinery and carrying out relentless campaign against them. Way back in independent India from the Mundra case to the jeep scandal to the hawala case to the kickbacks received in different defense deals- Indian media performs commendably in exposing the corrupted highly placed statesman. In recent scams from commonwealth to 2G, exposed thanks to television and print media, media acted as a catalyst to government action compelling government to swing into action including suspending ministers and putting ministers into jail. Who can forget the crusade taken by Indian media in the Nirbhaya rape case and shaping the public opinion in one of the most heinous crimes the world has ever witnessed. Without media, the news of government schemes and benefits would have never reached the target audience.
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