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Media: Hope for the country
A free and independent media coupled with investigative citizen journalism is our country's best hope. Due to stiff competition, few news channels try to sensationalise stories but the responsible media by far outweighs a few stray self serving cases.
IN A country like ours, where there is extreme corruption at all levels and the government machinery is slow to react to situations, the media is a boon. The minute situations and events are aired, the concerned authorities are shaken out of their slumber and swing into action. Hence, a free and independent media is our country’s best hope. Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right, just as access to basic information and right to know is a fundamental right for the people. A democratic country is accountable to its people.

If the public benefits as a result of a specific investigative method then it is justified. The sting operations have exposed many murky and sordid going ons among public functionaries, which has had the government red in the face. Right from the Tehelka’s exposé of the defence ministry to the cash-for-questions scam and cuts from the money sanctioned for projects under the Local Area Development Scheme involving members of Parliament (MPs), all have been real embarrassments to the government. Then, comes the comedy – the blame game! Like searching for a needle in the haystack, these culprits with delusions of persecution start searching for excuses and they do find them! The people are subject to the usual allegations of frame-ups, unseen forces maligning their names and character and so on & so forth .Its just hilarious. Anyway, viewers do need some comic relief in these stressful times. But, somewhere deep down inside us there is this vague gnawing pain of helplessness at the depth, to which human nature and values have degraded.

Hats off to our media for being instrumental in bringing justice to certain high profile murder cases like Jessica Lal, Nitish Katara , Priyadarshini Mattoo etc. Delhi’s crowded Tihar Jail is hosting many high-profile criminals, politicians and their kin, thanks to faster court decisions prodded on by a vigilant media. The airing of the spine chilling incident of two engineers being run over by a car while executing their duty, made it possible for the influential culprit being brought to book in South India.

Now, we go to the other side of the coin. Due to stiff competition some news channels try to project different perceptions in certain sensational stories. For instance, when the forest brigand, Veerappan was killed in police encounter, a certain news channel went to the extent of nearly whipping up sympathy, by telling their viewers to remember his wife and kids at this time and to be sensitive to their feelings. What about the feelings of the families of 150 lives whom he had brutally and gruesomely murdered, and that too when they were executing their duty. What about the feelings of people whom he and his armed men terrorised while barging into their estates and cutting off the sandalwood trees? Not to mention 2000 elephants and the unrecorded murders.

Another one such incident happened last week. Since campus crimes were on the rise in the capital, there was this news that certain schools are employing private detectives to keep an eye on their wards. After reporting it, the news channel went about interviewing the youngsters, whether they felt their privacy was being invaded. And then the opinion of an expert. "You see, students too have a fundamental right of privacy under the constitution. These kinds of efforts tactics and methods being adopted by schools amounts to encroachment of rights," said Anil Agarwal, education lawyer.

"’Parents can move the high court under 226 of constitution and take an action against indulging in all this... this also reflects failure on the part of the school. This is illegal," he added.

When it is a matter of life and death, precaution is always better than coming up with solutions and debates after campus crimes have been committed. The schools are just trying to play it safe for their ward’s safety. Before boarding a flight we have got to go through security check. At a shopping mall at Bangalore, even our handbags were checked before entering the mall. Its for our safety. We are living in dangerous times. So the right for fundamental privacy has to be a little flexible. Then there was this infamous Uma Khurana sting operation.

Media is a powerful tool in India and has to be used with care, caution and responsibility. Certainly the responsible media by far outweighs a few stray self serving cases.

Even though the media was taking up cudgels for causes, the rise of Citizen Journalism gives more strength to an already powerful tool. The reversal of roles from audience to collecting, reporting, analysing and publishing news, armed with cell phone cameras and digital cameras lends power to citizens. It is also essential for the attainment of human rights. Citizen journalism is another step closer to a more transparent and accountability in government and public sectors.

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