Keeping in view the poor performance of India in the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), elucidate the importance of media for a democracy. Also, identify the issues affecting media in contemporary times and suggest measures to address them.

India’s dismal performance in WPFI is a cause of concern. Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy and its health is of paramount importance.

Issues:

  • Curbing freedom of speech: censorships, indirect coercion.
  • Violence against journalists.
  • Paid news affecting journalistic ethos.
  • Judicial misadventure: case of Meghalaya High Court initiating contempt proceedings against a local daily.
  • Misuse of Parliamentary privileges (Contempt against journalist in Karnataka by legislative assembly).
  • Erosion of management autonomy: media houses owned by businessmen and politicians with vested interests.

Significance of media:

  • Check executive and legislative overreach.
  • Fosters public opinion on national issues.
  • Keeps people informed of government decisions.
  • Ensure accountability of public officers.
  • Reports on performance of government functions.

Measures to address issues:

  • Strengthening of Press Council of India – giving it powers on the lines of NHRC, CIC.
  • Stringent action against paid news.
  • Providing adequate security to media personnel.
  • Codification and curbing misuse of parliamentary privileges.
  • Usage of social media as an alternate source of news.
  • Insulation of media from government, management misadventures.

The role of media in a healthy democracy is of paramount importance and requires all round efforts by different organs to maintain its sanctity. Media erosion will mean erosion of transparency and accountability, which is very unhealthy for democracy.

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