Opinion

What Press Freedom are we talking about?

Whether a Digital Media is a right wing or left wing or Centrist, we are part of the digital news media and ergo, only a clout of particular ideological leaning does not get to speak on behalf of us.

 

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the United Nation is celebrating with the theme of “keeping power in check”. While the media is often hailed for talking truth to those in the position of power: mostly in the arena of governance and corporates, we have rarely explored talking truth to power centres in media.

The media is the one which more often than not talks and emphasizes on equality and giving a fair chance of participation to all. But what if I tell you it is the same media that forgets the lesson it teaches you when it comes to own fraternity? The truth is media does discriminate within itself. There remains a wide gap between the power centres of media and the others from the same fraternity. These power centres are rarely confronted.

When we talk about Press Freedom today, we do not only talk about the freedom of the press from the oppressors or freedom of the press from the government regulation only, but we also talk about freedom of the press from the pack that is self-proclaimed representative of all the stakeholders. As HW News is a Digital Platform, we will talk about the issues that plague us.

Freedom from Digital monopoly:

To say so, digital is the platform which shields the freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the truest sense. The Digital Media incorporates all irrespective of ideological leaning, a quality rarely seen in mainstream media. Thus, protecting the Digital Media is a responsibility to be shouldered by all who are a part of the Digital News Media space.

Recently, a signature campaign opposing Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani’s proposal to regulate Digital Media made it to the headlines. The petition was sent to I&B Minister with the name of 100 Digital Media Professionals and signatories.

If you go through the names of the 100 “representatives”, one can easily spot the professionals from the Digital Media Channels having a similar mindset. Now the question is who gave them the right to represent the Digital Media space? The Digital Media space is vast and the stakeholders of Digital News Media are numerous. The 100 people from the same particular region, same ideological leaning and same few organizations don’t represent the entire Digital fraternity. The digital space accommodates many Digital Media organizations that may or may not have a huge capital or backing as these self-proclaimed representatives have, but they equally influence their audience and affect the society. Why were they not involved in the process?

We all, as a part of the Digital Media, have own reader or viewer base. If you’re reading this, then it means that the message I am trying to convey is reaching you and reaching those who like to read or watch us. Thus, any decision about the Digital Media equally affects us and is influenced by us.

This self-proclaimed “representative” clout does not subscribe to anything and anyone beyond their circle. This clout does not stand by those who do not share their world-view even though they belong to the same fraternity as them. It lives in a bubble that the right to represent the fraternity is only with them and a part of Lutyens Delhi. The opinions of the “others” in the fraternity don’t count and aren’t considered worthy.

Were these excluded channels had different ideological leanings? Maybe. But how does that justify excluding them from something so crucial to their profession, our profession? Whether a Digital Media is a right wing or left wing or Centrist, we are part of the digital news media and thus only a clout of particular ideological leaning does not get to speak on behalf of us.

Digital Media
Image Source: Web

Freedom from discrimination:

There exists discrimination on the basis of what medium you work for. Digital, in this case, is often treated as the child of a lesser god. The digital media is not considered a legit press though it has contributed fantastically in bringing out the stories which are often omitted by the mainstream media. The Digital Media today has the power to lead the mass movements which was evident in the past too. However, the Digital Media is not recognized as a part of the legit press. Be it Press Club of India or Mumbai Press Club, the Digital News Media are not given membership.

Digital Media
Image Source: Web

Freedom from government regulation:

The media is well regarded as the fourth pillar of the democracy. The Digital Media stands for freedom of expression and freedom of voicing your opinions without fear. When Smriti Irani talks about constituting a committee to frame a regulatory framework for Digital content as she believes there are no norms and guidelines for content shared on the Internet, it actually hampers the ability of the digital media to facilitate what the broadcast and print can not- freedom of expression to each and everyone.

Also if the government-appointed panel where the members are selected by the ruling party minister there is also a threat to the basic right to dissent or oppose the political party. Considering the past examples, such institutions or panels can also possibly become a tool at the hands of governments to suppress the media that does not subscribe to their political view.

Fake News
image Source: Web

Unless and until these threats to Digital Media are addressed we are forced to ask, what press freedom are you talking about?

Note:

Consider this as my open letter to all my senior colleagues. I know as I&B Minister won’t listen to them, they will not listen to me.

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