Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Media constitute the fourth pillar of democracy. The role of the media is vital in generating a democratic culture that extends beyond the political system and becomes engrained in the public consciousness over time. Media is supplying the political information that voters base their decisions on.
They identify problems in our society and serve as a medium for deliberation. They also serve as watchdogs that we rely on for uncovering errors and wrongdoings by those who have power. Media is vital in generating a democratic culture that extends beyond the political system and becomes engrained in the public consciousness over time. The role of media in a democracy is as crucial as that of the politicians and should never be underestimated.
Freedom of expression is critical to democracy
This rationale is based on the notion that democracy – which recognizes that people have the right to elect a government of their choosing – cannot exist in any meaningful way without the right to freedom of expression.
There are many aspects to this rationale, but the fundamental concept is that in order for democracy to be effective, the citizenry that votes in elections and engages in public processes with the government must be informed and must have the right to participate freely in public discourse.
If there is no freedom of expression – if people are not free to share information and express a range of ideas, opinions and political views; and, the corollary to that, if people are not free to receive information in the form of a range of ideas, opinions and political views – they will not be sufficiently well informed to make appropriate and meaningful political choices, whether at the ballot box or in their interactions with government more generally.
Media and society:
The media can play a positive role in democracy only if there is an enabling environment that allows them to do so. They need the requisite skills for the kind of indepth reporting that a new democracy requires.
There should also be mechanisms to ensure they are held accountable to the public and that ethical and professional standards are upheld. Media independence is guaranteed if media organizations are financially viable, free from intervention of media owners and the state, and operate in a competitive environment. The media should also be accessible to as wide a segment of society as possible. Efforts to help the media should be directed toward: the protection of press rights, enhancing media accountability, building media capacity and democratising media access.
Building independent media in developing countries requires more than freedom of speech, skilled journalists, or strong business management skills.
Enabling independent media to perform the crucial roles of being a watchdog over government and educating people about the issues that affect their lives also requires supporting organizations such as trade unions and professional associations for journalists, and a public educated about these roles and responsibilities of media and their function in a democratic and open society.
If a democracy is to run smoothly in any country, it is a must that the media in all fairness should be given full autonomy and a free hand it deserves in airing its views among the people and no unnecessary restrictions should be imposed on it.
In words of Benito Mussolini –
“Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical and destructive than one, if he be a tyrant”. It is the fear of being exposed by the media before the public that most of the politicians keep themselves under control to some extent”