By: Sanjib Kumar Sarma & Partha Pratim Goswami
In a constitutional democracy, the essence of freedom of speech lies in the liberty to argue on specific matters of justice- social, economic, and political. The main virtue of democracy is to allow all to participate in the process of law-making; which furthers the reason for all to accept the outcome. When opposing views are left to be freely voiced and heard, therefore providing everyone to vote based on full information about rival candidates for office and their attitude to questions of justice, then there is a strong moral ground of obedience to the laws enacted. At the political level, it encompasses the freedom to speak, debate, discuss, argue, deliberate, and disseminate on matters relating to governmental conduct, principles and policy, and other socio-political issues. Overall freedom of speech enjoys its special importance in virtue of its purpose in facilitating the achievement of justice.
The primary reason behind the drafting of the constitution and particularly the provisions of fundamental rights is to restrain power and to protect citizens against governmental anarchy. The court through its writ jurisdictions and the power of judicial review fulfills this objective as its constitutional responsibility. Through the judicial review, the courts ensure that majorities are properly elected and that citizens can debate issues intelligently before casting vote. Through its writ jurisdictions, the courts protect the fundamental rights against infringement by an elected temporary majority or executive government.
In the growing age of digitalization, television and radio remain the most reliable medium for obtaining politically relevant information because of the large public reliance on the mass media. Even though the internet is the most accessible and prompt source of news providers; the websites which are visited the most are those of mainstream media; with the BBC news website being the most visited news site in the world and we can find a huge number of visitors in some renowned houses like The Hindu, Times of India, The Indian Express in India. There are inevitable allies between the media and the political parties because of which most party and their members exploit mass communication tools very effectively. Media has been a communication medium between political strategies of political wings and common people. Thus, even the goals of the journalists have changed significantly in modern-day media practice in India. It no longer is independent in the telecasting, producing programs or stories it only emphasis on monetary gain and sensitization of news in the race of increasing TRP. The three prominent role players have been reduced to only one that is the Media.
The Indian media which once played the role of the informant has become a participant who lays down the agenda, is a propaganda setter, an image builder, and a brand builder. The media in competing with each other have started creating hype through controversies and making issues of every small fact which leads to shrillness where the other side of the picture remains unknown, unclear, and doubtful.
Media ethics is the sub-division of applied ethics dealing with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, art, print media, and the internet. There are various areas of media ethics, such as ethics of journalism; ethics of entertainment media; media, and democracy. Like the different areas of media ethics, there are different contexts of media ethics. These are media ethics and the law; media ethics and media economics; media ethics and public officials; inter-cultural dimensions of media ethics. Even though media ethics is a branch of applied ethics, there is no borderline of media ethics. From the context of the present scenario, media ethics play a huge role in guiding society. Media is the only medium through which people can express their views. People come to know what is going on around the world. Media brings the world to our home. The world of the 21st century is a global village in the sense that what is happening far and remote is being disclosed or manifested through media. Thus, there is nothing wrong to assume that media is the part and parcel of human interaction.
We think that the influence of Government, state as well as central, is the main threat to enjoying the freedom of speech by media. It would equally be true in other countries as well. Having said this, if there were countries where the freedom of speech of the press or media had been saved, the impact of media in such countries would be far more effective than the countries like India. We think freedom of speech of the media or the press is so vital that it provides a degree of immunity from government, even bit causes some measure of harm to the public. Great German Philosopher Emmanuel Kant equally emphasizes on freedom of moral agents. According to Kant the moral agent in the true sense of the term would not be responsible in cases of his actions where his or her freedom of speech was ignored. Thus, for Kant, freedom, and responsibility are the two co-existence moral concepts based on which one can judge the moral action of a moral agent. Thus, in the real sense of the term, it can be said that speech and communication are deemed to have a special quality or value. Interestingly, in India even in the 21st century, we are still struggling for our freedom of speech at times.
Freedom and autonomy of the media are associated with the concept of social responsibility. The idea of social responsibility is comprehensive. By achieving a more comprehensive understanding of what social responsibility means in the field of media, one becomes better equipped to formulate media laws that are effective and hold the potential to result in improving the role of media in society. The newsroom definition of ‘media ethics’ can translate into the broader concept of ‘social responsibility which, we think, is appropriate for reasoning in sociological and legal terms. At first sight, the issue of social responsibility hinges on the very question of what is right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or not, in the ways that the media collects and publishes information. Media indeed deals with social and empirical facts. To explicate or explore accurate empirical facts should be the main objective of media. There may have various external forces, particularly in the case of murder, in the case of rap, and other heinous and distasteful activities, the media man may fall into a trap of publishing the true events.
Even in some cases, the autonomy and the freedom of media may be disrupted by some forceful agent. Political intervention is a case in point. This is where the relevance of the social responsibility of media hinges. Media as such under any circumstance does not lose its autonomy and freedom. The media should not succumb to any external forces for receiving or achieving any undesirable gain. Media man must work for the society and the solidarity of the country by revealing the facts going on every passing hour. The solidarity of the society and country depends on the responsibility of the media man. As a result, the people of the country assess their own and as well as the other’s activities and accordingly shape and reshape themselves based on the ingenuity of the facts known through different sorts of media. That is why it has been claimed that discussing the definition of social responsibility runs the risk of falling into a normative framework.