With the advent of Print media in Europe in the 15th century, the citizens established a medium to raise their voice against the primitive despotic authorities. This medium to represent the voice distinguished as the fourth estate or the fourth pillar of democracy and had an imperative role to play in Europe and America’s future. Alongside the change in time from convoluted and laborious approaches of printing traditional newspapers to sharing of posts by a single click in the modern era, people are also disremembering the actual connotation of Journalism.
Gradually, the purpose of disseminating the information that is crucial for the welfare of society has shifted to attract maximum readers and viewers through entertaining or extraneous information. The role of vibrant media is no less in any civilization as it is an indispensable part of humanity.
There has been an incessant deterioration in the dignified position of the fourth estate mainly due to a paradigm transferral in primacies of reportage, driven by private, administrative, and corporate interests. In the status quo, no matter if the significant incidents are ignored but sensationalism is the order of their day for earning daily bread and not for following ethics of journalism.
Media sector is made up of the most intellectual and utilitarian folks of the nation to balance the chariot of democracy. Despondently, they are now failing to inspire society due to the inappropriate and ill model of journalism. The media, an immensely powerful tool to mold society by making some recognized better changes in society is being controlled by various parties to satisfy their agendas. The changes brought by the media cannot be neglected, but unhappily, it is spoiling the public by annihilating the ethical journalism. The watchdog of the democracy to safeguard the public interests – media, itself needs a protector to safeguard its ethics. The maintenance of higher standards of journalistic ethics will strengthen the democratic country.
Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, and socio-political critic has highlighted the spectacular achievements of propaganda by media through his book “Media Control”. According to him, there are two different conceptions of democracy, one we read in the dictionary that public has the right to participate in managing their affairs along with unrestricted and open means of information. Alternatively, there exists a concept wherein the public is barred from managing their affairs, while information means were extremely controlled. Miserably, this is the prevailing conception in society.
He highlighted the instance of Woodrow Wilson administration. During World War I, for the sake of their commitment to a war with Germans, it turned a pacifist population into a hysterical and war-mongering population merely in six months after establishing a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission. He said, “State propaganda when supported by the educated classes, and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.” Consequently, the newly established conception of democracy is used to manufacture the consent of the people and are turned into spectators or bewildered herd. Public participation is the foundation of a successful and vibrant democracy. The wrongdoings of media can be seen through the heightened propaganda machines converting public into spectators.
Various significant issues are affecting the society such as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, the safety of basic rights, etc. which need immediate attention of the media, but it is busy exaggerating and spinning the same insignificant stories. The most powerful and independent pillar has become the hand puppet controlled by authorities and corporates to engage with the public.
Media has a prominent and supreme responsibility of disseminating the credible, accurate, and obligatory information during any crisis may be political, humanitarian, food, or environment. But, unexpectedly the extensive role of media is drastically changing in dealing with the oppression, injustice, discrimination, nepotism, mis conducts, and malpractices happening all across the globe. Objectively and independently treating its readers, viewers, advertisers, sponsors, new sources, authorities, and others is the primary duty of media while guarding the integrity of their newspaper or channel. But it is unhesitatingly spreading misinformation while manipulating a decent and vulnerable audience. Fake news and propaganda are the major reasons for the ‘mistrust’ in media in this era. But who should be blamed for this inappropriateness? Is it their personal belief or the lack of courage amongst the authorities to face the world?
But suddenly, the daily routine of people gets change with the introduction of one modern gadget and that is the mobile phone. The day starts with the scrolling screen to check the daily updates and ends up on the same screen. The new digital platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, local websites, e-newspapers, etc. have dramatically changed the approach of spreading information and credibility.
According to a data reported by Brookings, 93% of Americans receive news online. According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 8% more Americans used social media as a news source, while a 7% increase is seen in South Korea and 4% in Australia. Simultaneously, the number of news aggregators, digital news sources, and voice-activated digital assistants has accelerated immensely. The social media unleashed some innovative journalistic practices but unfortunately extending disinformation, hoaxes, propaganda, and satire. Even those traditional newspaper organizations are also building a digital platform to win the race of ‘publish first, non-verified facts.”
Citizen journalism, a unique sort of journalism performed by citizens while considering their freedom of speech is losing its essence due to the immense spread of misleading and factually incorrect information. And thanks to the watchdogs of democracy for ignoring their accountability, they are reporting the worst way. The distorted information can distort the election campaigns while affecting the public perceptions and shaping human emotions.
Expert correspondents of the international news organization, The Guardian have explained some instances where the fake news spread by media had impacted the public adversely. Talking about Germany, where three years back, fake news of 13-year-old Russian girl being raped by refugees in Berlin from the Middle-east hit the country hard. Later, this exclusive story was investigated and found this claim false. Berlin’s public prosecutor’s office declared the girl had spent 30 hours with her known people, and medical tests proved that she was not raped. But this, so-called fake news, was shared widely on social media through Russian sites as well and led hundreds of people protesting on the streets.
The claims of a chip in the newly introduced 2,000 rupee note by the Indian government in 2016 were extensively spread through the WhatsApp and later, by the mainstream media, though it was proved wrong. Not only Germany and India but countries like Brazil, Australia, France, Myanmar, Austria, and even all the countries are battling the corroding element of fake news.
The cut-throat competition amongst media outlets has endorsed a major shift to the digital platform while disruptively pushing back the traditional forms of media. In the haste of being first to publish the news on their digital platforms, most of the sites are disremembering the obligatory step before broadcasting anything out in the public, that is, the fact-check. The misinformation is being spread due to a lack of fact-checking of the report. But the approach of being first while overlooking the accurate information needs immediate prevention.
Conclusively, it becomes the joint responsibility to combat fake news by checking, re-checking, and cross-checking the facts through some credible national and international news outlets or government websites as well.