“The meaning of national interest is survival—the protection of physical, political and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states.” – Morgenthau (German-American political scientist).
National interest is a vague term which has been continuously used by policymakers and politicians, and it includes many aspects of the well being of any nation. Various factors contributing to national interest are economic development, security, boundary disputes, social harmony and well being, societal development, and many more. As there is no particular definition for national interest (neither the factors which can contribute to it are stated anywhere), it becomes tough to find out if anything or any action negatively affects the interest of the nation. But then, some actions can be easily be understood if they are against it. For example, any Indian website presenting the PoK in Pakistan on its map, especially when many people follow the website, can create chaos and violence; hence disturbing the harmony, and as a result, it is against national interest.
The media is the fourth pillar of any democratic society, and its work is to disseminate information and inform the policymakers about the requirements and problems faced by the people of the state. There are some rules and regulations which are put up by the Press Council Of India on the press to formulate ethics and morals in the content disseminated, and one of its most important factors is paramount national interest. It suggests that the press should maintain caution and restraints when information which can potentially jeopardize, endanger or harm the paramount interest of the state and society. In such case, reasonable restrictions are imposed by the law over the freedom of speech. When putting up serious allegations, sources must be mentioned. If the article consists of any sensitive issue which can defame the whole nation, it should be thoroughly investigated and proved by the news agency before its publication.
Recently, the press council of India moved the Supreme Court to hear a petition filed against restrictions on communication facilities in Jammu and Kashmir by Kashmir Times executive Anuradha Bhasin. Bhasin’s chief grievances were “loss of circulation, readership and ultimately the loss of earning”. The PCI has sought a crucial point; it has already put up rules and regulations which prioritize self-restraint by journalists on the issues of ‘paramount national interest.’
In 2011, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) had misapplied the code of conduct and indict four TV channels which covered a terrorist attack, for “provoking anti-national sentiments among viewers by sensitizing the events unnecessarily.” Their statement claimed that “some news channels did not realize their journalistic responsibility and ethics towards society, institutions and country. Some news channels even went overboard in maligning the role of security agencies, armed forces and state institutions.”
Army and security forces are considered to work for the national interest as they protect the land and its people from any external force. When the rules are strict, then it becomes hard for people to speak up against the wrongs done by these protectors, especially when they don’t have any proof. One such incident is the alleged rape cases against the men in security forces in Manipur. In this case, the army gave its men a clean chit and the state government refused to conduct its own probe on which the Supreme Court bench of two, Justice Lokur and Justice Lalit asked the Manipur government, “is there a tacit understanding between you (the state) and them (the army) that you won’t conduct any sort of probe? Here is a 13-year-old girl who worked at a rubber farm. There was no allegation that she was an insurgent. Two people came and raped her. She narrated this ordeal to her mother and a sister, then commits suicide. Have you decided that let the army come and rape anyone, what can we do?”
With such statements, the Supreme Court has emphasized that in a democratic country, armed forces cannot be above the law. The most questionable thing is why doesn’t the media inform the masses of such facts when its job is to solely disseminate the message? The reason behind this particular case can be that the army people or the men in uniform are not to be questioned as they supposedly work for ‘national interest’. If some citizens question them, they are called anti-nationals. But one shouldn’t forget that each citizen is as Indian as any army personnel, and their rights are important too. To criticize and find out who the wrongdoers are in society, whosoever they may be, is also an action in the direction of national interest.
The West political atmosphere must be brought into focus here. We need to observe how they handle the concept of nationalism; the media questions and criticizes Mr President for various actions, but it does not have any negative impact on the state, and its people or the national interest. Criticizing what’s unethical is never wrong and if we don’t not criticize, we can at least ensure dissemination of credible information so that people can decide what they find right or wrong. Media, on the other hand, should just report what is happening without any agenda.