Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
Marking the occasion of National Press Day on November 16, the Government of Manipur honored the Fourth Estate by awarding 8 journalists of their state in 8 different categories. These awards and honor bestowed on the journalists is a testament to the fact that above the three Estates in Parliament, there is in the Reporters’ Gallery a Fourth Estate, far more important than the other three. This act of honoring will only embolden the journalists in discharging their responsibility of reporting and writing the ‘truth’ fairly without biasness.
Conversely, for all the efforts of trying to educate and inform the masses, it is indeed sad to see the way the Government of Nagaland treats the media. Leave aside the awards, the failure to duly acknowledge the services of the Media, especially the press, only shows the lack of respect for the media fraternity. Like everyone else, the ever-present media persons too need encouragement and appreciation to take journalism in Nagaland to greater heights in not only keeping the masses informed but also in building a democratic society. Thus, the efforts for the growth and development of Media in Nagaland should be complemented by awards in various fields not just for encouragement or appreciation but to broaden the very scope and spectrum of Knowledge, News and Information and go beyond the general definition of ‘news.’
Within the evolving meaning of ‘news’ and information, the presence of a viable media system where the press can freely express towards shaping and promoting democratic ideals becomes a necessary condition in bringing out opinions, perspectives, and more so ‘truth’ objectively, fairly, honestly and courageously in the process of disseminating knowledge and information. And this is where the Government also has a supportive role to play to strengthen the Media system so that it does not stay simply as a ritualistic medium to disseminate news and information but a channel to reach out to people in an informed manner and thereby empower people.
For the Media to empower the people, it needs the support of the Government to express ‘truth’ freely and objectively without any fear. Free expression is still a challenge in the State and a reporter may have second thoughts in bringing out news and revealing stories that are ‘sensitive’ and ‘provocative’ in nature and which might attract unnecessary attention. In the absence of a free press, values like truth, honesty, justice are bound to be sacrificed at the altar of ‘socio-political conditioning’ and its associated underpinnings and thereby fail to empower the people. After all, the media are not bloodhounds rather watchdogs but today the Media is not allowed to function freely so much so that it is being reduced to the status of ‘lapdogs.’
Today, tasked with the biggest social responsibility of the Media to make a success of democracy, the media especially the press is faced with a newer challenge in the face of increasing use of Social Media platforms. There is a tension going on between social media and the print media where the former seems to have taken primacy over the latter, somehow randomly redefining what news ‘ought’ to be. Based on the degree, intensity and immediacy of the issues generated through social media networks, certain parameters are set about the nature of news and information. It has really mellowed down the very nature and understanding of ‘news.’ Nonetheless, in spite of the damaging effects, social media ‘news’ creates a ‘doubt’ on its guarantee, authenticity and validity which thereby makes the print hold the edge.
Having said thus, the Media’s social responsibility of promoting democratic ideals is a shared responsibility and that it needs the acknowledgement and support of the Government in making media as a vital conduit to inform, educate and empower the masses.
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir is a Freelance Editing and Research Consultant. He contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)