“Press”ing Matter: Misuse Of Freedom

Posted on September 27, 2012 in Media

By Diksha Mahajan:

How many of us would expect ourselves to turn up as breaking news on TV news channel just because we paid a visit to a temple? So, when the headlines in the newspapers and TV are, “Bachchan family pays a visit to Balaji Temple,” one wonders why a visit to a temple turns into news for the day. If that’s not enough, Kareena Kapoor’s size zero frame is analyzed more than the Union budget!

Today, the freedom enjoyed by the press has taken away the freedom of celebrities, cricketers and other prominent people. The barber, from whom Mahendra Singh Dhoni gets a haircut, is interviewed for his opinion of the Indian Cricket team. Can there be anything worse than this? If the Indian cricket team loses a match, the news channels lose no time in criticizing the players. On the other hand, if they win, they are heaped with tiresome praise. In an age where Journalism wields the real power- it can transform a pauper into a politician and vice versa in no time. Fifteen minutes of fame is all that you need. The media is responsible for turning Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, two ordinary people into the nation’s new ‘Saviours’.

Breaking news is meant to be headlines which would break even the common man’s routine or would at least affect him. But today, every other news is ‘Breaking News’. How does Kareena’s weight loss affect the people of a country where more than half of the population is trying to make both ends meet? It has become so pointless turning on news channels ever since the channels discovered the art of breaking news. News channels, instead of simply providing information, spice up the information and make an issue out of everything. It’s no longer news; it’s only gossip and made-up facts to sell their channels. All this only serves to divert our attention from other more pressing issues which our country faces today-like poverty, corruption, inflation etc.

The television channels went on careless and competitive frenzy while covering the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks, putting national security in jeopardy. This frenzied coverage just to gather eyeballs, endangered the lives of many Indians held hostage. Can we justify this act under the right to Freedom of Press? Do we even analyze events around us anymore? We feed on the frenzy built up by the news channels which are heavily breathing down your neck telling you what to think. Freedom of press, in my opinion, is the freedom for the public to get information not the freedom to disturb someone else’s private life or the freedom to insult a person/group/country. In fact, freedom of press has now become the freedom to gossip, not to give news. The press should act as a check and balance on the government, exposing corruption, illegal programmes and scams.

The more the press gets involved in politics, the more it seems to act like politicians”. The Indian Constitution, while not mentioning the word “press”, provides for “the right to freedom of speech and expression” (Article 19(1) a). This right should be used responsibly. The press should realize that it should not act as a medium of disclosing private matters and breaching privacy but should enable us to know day-to-day events of the world. I support the freedom to ‘report’ news, not to ‘make’ news.