Freedom of the press or media is the belief system that communications to the public through the medium of print, television and, these days, the internet should be free of oversight from the government. Different countries have different provisions to guarantee this right. Below you will find essays on freedom of the press and how it relates to India and its role and importance in a democracy.
Long and Short Essay on Freedom of the Press
Essay on Freedom of Press and Judiciary (250 words)
A free press and a free judiciary are two very important cornerstones of a democracy. Together, they are responsible for ensuring transparency and holding those in power accountable for their policies and actions. Although their actual functions are different, both institutions act as checks and balances for the government and, therefore, their roles are complementary.
Roles of Press and Judiciary
It is the responsibility of the media to bring forth news and facts that will shape public opinion and allow the citizens of a country to exercise their rights. The judiciary’s role is to protect those rights. Therefore, it becomes clear that in order to function efficiently, both the media and the judiciary must be independent of any outside influences that may attempt to skew information or legal decisions.
However, the roles of these two institutions do not end here. The judiciary is also responsible for protecting the freedom of the press. At the same time, the press is responsible for reporting facts and events in a manner that helps the judiciary make impartial legal decisions that can affect the course of a nation. While it is the media’s job to raise important issues and update the citizens of a country, it is the judiciary’s job to ensure that it can do so without interference.
The two systems also act as checks and balances for each other. The right to freedom of speech and expression isn’t absolute and it is up to the judiciary to decide when the press is being denied this right and when it cannot exercise this right. On the other hand, it is up to the media to ensure that the judiciary dispenses justice in a transparent and effective manner.
There are four pillars that support a working democracy – the executive, legislature, judiciary, and press. Of these, the latter two are vital to the proper functioning of a democracy. Each must protect and reinforce the other in order for the power to remain in the hands of the people in a democracy.
Essay on Freedom of Press in Democracy (400 WORDS)
A democracy is a system wherein power is supposed to lie in the hands of the people. They may choose to exercise this power directly or to elect representatives from amongst their numbers. These representatives then form a governing body such as a parliament.
In order for a democracy to work, it needs to have four solid aspects – free and fair elections, protection of the people’s human rights, the participation of citizens and the rule of law applied equally to everyone. However, without the freedom of the press, all of this is moot.
Freedom of Press in Democracy
There can be no denying the fact that democracy will only survive if there is freedom of the press or media. Since democracy depends upon its citizens, these citizens must be well-informed so that they can make political decisions and elect their representatives appropriately. However, it is impossible or creates difficulty for every citizen to go searching for such information themselves.
This is where the press comes in. It falls upon the news media to collect, verify and disseminate the information that can help people make the decisions that allow democracy to work. As such, the press becomes a powerful tool for the efficient functioning of a democratic government. By reporting verified facts, the press not only allows people to be knowledgeable about what is going on but also acts as a check on the government.
It becomes obvious, then, that the press must be free to do its job. It should not have to face censorship that hides crucial information from the public. The right to freedom of speech and expression also includes the right of the press to the same freedom. If members of the press are intimidated and harassed or are discredited without reason, the people lose the only tool they have to participate effectively in the running of their country.
Without freedom of the press, no government can be considered ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’. Unfortunately, the past few years have seen increasing curbs, direct or indirect, on the media and its ability to report. These curbs have come in the form of harassment, threats, and intimidation and are having increasingly disastrous consequences for the dissemination of unbiased information. Unless this trend is reversed, we may see some of the most powerful democracies in the world collapsing soon.
Essay on Importance of Freedom of Press and Media (450 words)
It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The institution that maintains that vigil is the press or the media. In other words, if the people are to be free, it is the job of the media to ensure that it keeps a watch on those in power in whose hands the freedom lies. In order to do so, press that is free of any outside influences or influencers is absolutely vital.
Importance of Freedom of Press
The press has a responsibility to act as a check and balance for the administration and the government. It is the press that raises its voice against social ills, malpractices, corruption, and oppression. It is also the press that gathers, verifies and distributes events, facts, and information that allow the people of a country to make sound judgments.
However, none of this is possible if the press itself is silenced or if its voice is only allowed when those in power permit. The information that comes from the press at such a time becomes suspect. Worse yet, the press may not be allowed to report news or express opinions that run contrary to what the people in power want. This means a citizenry that is woefully uninformed and, therefore, powerless.
This is not mere speculation. Time and time again, recent history has proven that censorship of the press is one of the most common features of a dictatorship. The censorship may not even be direct or obvious at first. A government may often start by discrediting the news media and what is being reported. It may stridently reinforce the notion that the media cannot be trusted by undermining the news and facts that the media presents to the public.
This is when the media begins to exercise self-censorship to avoid outrage manufactured by the government. As time passes, this self-censorship may become more ingrained or such distrust for the news media may develop among the people that they call for the government to intervene. Of course, once the media is muzzled, there is no one to report truths. In the absence of those truths, the citizenry has no power to affect the necessary changes and the government reigns supreme.
No right is absolute. This is true even for the right to freedom of speech or expression. However, the right does exist and as long as it does, the power lies in the hands of the people. Since the freedom of the press also falls under this right, it is clear that the press is the tool that indirectly protects all other rights that people may enjoy. Curbing the freedom of the press is, thus, curbing the freedom of the people.
Essay on Freedom of Press and Social Responsibility (500 words)
Social responsibility is the obligation to guide one’s actions on the basis of the effect the actions will have on society, economy, culture, and environment. What this means is that everyone has a responsibility to express themselves in a way that doesn’t harm the social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of the world we live in.
Social Responsibility and Freedom of the Press
The press has a powerful role to play in any setting. It disseminates information and expresses opinions that guide and shape the public’s opinion and stances. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the reporting done in the 20th and 21st centuries across the globe. This is the time that reporting of facts became widespread and print media came into its own.
The theory of social responsibility of the press lies between total authoritarianism and libertarianism. As per the theory, a free press should be allowed without any censorship but the content should be self-regulated and open to discussion in public panels. It helps establish guidelines for professionalism in reporting and insists upon high standards of quality in terms of truth, accuracy, and information.
The fact is that media without any fetters can be dangerous. It can report anything, twist any facts or even present outright lies in order to maintain its influence. It can be manipulated quite easily and, in turn, can manipulate the very public opinion it is supposed to shape. Responsible journalism doesn’t only mean reporting facts. It also means placing those facts in context and, under certain circumstances, even refraining from reporting facts or expressing opinions that can cause harm.
The perfect example of this situation is the Mumbai attacks on November 26. When the Rapid Action Force, Marine Commandos and National Security Guard surrounded the Taj Hotel and the Oberoi Trident, 67 channels were on hand to broadcast live the proceedings. Thanks to minute-by-minute updates, the terrorists knew exactly what was going on outside and were able to plan their defense accordingly. The job of the commandos became infinitely more difficult as they tried to subdue the terrorists and rescue hostages.
After the event, the Supreme Court ruled that the media had been extremely irresponsible and endangered the lives of not only the rescue teams but also the hostages. In their bid to increase their ratings, various TV channels cast aside all common sense and carelessly and ceaselessly released updates that helped the terrorists while hindering security forces. While freedom of expression is a right, it isn’t without its limitations and during those fateful days, the news media flagrantly violated those limitations for revenue.
There can be no doubt that a strong and free press is crucial to the functioning of any democracy. However, like any other right, the right to freedom of expression must be exercised with caution lest it does more harm than good. Unfortunately, news media depends on ratings to generate revenue and has demonstrated time and again that it will cross many moral lines to get both. In order to be truly effective, the press needs to remember that it has a responsibility to its audience and to society as a whole to be rational and conscientious in its reporting.