Power of the Pen: Really?

Posted on July 7, 2012 in Media

By Ayan Joshi:

‘Hail the mighty pen, for it is sharper than a sword.’ The analogy used here by me may seem exaggerated and the selection of words influenced by the Great Greek Mythology, but right from the inception of the new age journalism the ‘power of the pen’ is considered to be the very catalyst for social, economic and political changes. Throughout the times, its power has been well acclaimed, well mentioned through several phrases… But, is the power of the pen well exercised too? Or is it just some fictitious saying that has been streamed for ages by those ‘possessors of the pen’? There is no definite answer.

The Constitution of India has bestowed the right to Freedom of Speech and Expression upon all its citizens. The right is what facilitates us to speak our minds and hearts, and the same right gives the pen the power it yields. There is no separate right for the freedom of press. Though, there are a few ‘Reasonable restrictions’ that can be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality. The provisions are enough to curb the power to some extent.

It must be reiterated, that though the media, is called the ‘fourth pillar of the democracy’, it doesn’t hold any administrative or authoritative power. Its power is confined to the dissemination of facts, which are capable of initiating the required action as well as spreading awareness. But the history is witness to the hampering of this role too: The Official Secrets Act and the Emergency Era being the more prominent examples. But the pen has always fought back. On 26th June 1975, a day after emergency was imposed; the Bombay edition of The Times of India carried an Obituary that read “D.E.M O’Cracy beloved husband of T.Ruth, father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justica expired on 26 June”.

The media in India has been under the aegis of the Government, and also witnessed the emergence of Private Media houses. Both the type of establishments brought with them their own share of limits and editorial policies. Editorial policies play a major role in any form of journalistic medium; they define what news would be carried in what light. And a journalist associated with the media cannot defy the existent policies within his own capabilities. A journalist often chooses to go with the flow and his pen follows its master’s choice.

Often there is news of mild or severe attacks on journalists. An organization, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), carries worldwide statistics of journalists killed in the field of duty. The statistics can be perplexing. The journalist makes his choice, and often chooses to be undeterred. The pen wins. But, the pen, if exercised honestly, has the power to incite a person. A journalist can be on the receiving end of the unleashed vengeance of a thick-skinned (read powerful) person. The pen still has to keep writing.

Every budding journalist has a dream to bring about a change, and development. The dream should never fade. There are several anecdotes where a pen has worked like a magic wand and marked a metamorphosis. It’s just that the power of the pen depends on its holder.