THE UNRULY WATCHDOG

Daily Post 1424

THE UNRULY WATCHDOG

In the democratic mechanism of checks and balances, beyond the legislature, executive and the judiciary is the Fourth Estate which serves as an external watchdog for governmental action. No democratic country worth its name can flourish without free and fair media. It is treated as a driving force towards democratisation and is also a very clear indicator of democratic rights and liberties. Mass media on the one hand enabled modern watchdog journalism but the darker underbelly has been commercialised corporate systems of journalism. New age media, by way of new virtual spheres and web-based platforms kindled a new hope, which seems to be fast disappearing. In a crazy combination of it all, ”networked Fourth Estate”, still gives us some hope of journalistic sanity.

Electronic media’s presence has been felt by one and all since the onset of the 24/7 news channels. Everything else remained the same, they all transformed. To feed even this repetitive medium, it needed a high octane fuel. The masses also had to be fed on opium, tastes needed to changed to appreciate a 70 mm movie without a plot and the continuous shrill of Mofussil town bus stand. Two mikes being pushed from both the side windows of the investigative team’s car, the team having just landed to investigate a case this evening in Mumbai and they trying to leave, the visuals can but be disturbing. Should everybody’s work move at the pace as demanded by the media? Asking questions to officials who didn’t even want to see their faces and hear their voice and face their pestering is abhorring.

Recently, one news editor gave an interview to his own channel before entering the police station for questioning. The watchdog takes up the role of a self styled crusader while being an alleged accused. Evening what is dished out in the name of debate has no semblance of it. The battle outcry style of the host is now picked up by the participants too. Technology is used in the most atrocious manner. While the guest / participant is speaking, he is muted. This is strangling of the right to freedom of speech of the most weird kind. Temporary Digital Strangulation. The language used is nowhere near the standards of civil public domain discourse. The social media as the youngest sibling has matured their way, in no time. In conjunction with the electronic media, the messages sent on the digital mode, can put anybody in tears. In simple language it is hurling of abuses.

The News International phone-hacking scandal of the tabloid News of the World of Rupert Murdock to the famed Fox News performances on a regular basis, the Fourth Estate seems to be on its own. Fake news was an irregular art earlier, has now been perfected as a science. The complex nature of knowledge required by the journalists in handling today’s issues does not connect with the ones who do. More often than not the main issue is given a miss. COVID-19 is out as it has crossed the rising TRP stage. The social media seems to have outsmarted all, main feeds coming from them and exposures too. WhatsApp has turned out to the ultimate news machine, taking less than two hours to reach every smart mobile in the world. Where is the watchdog and where is the estate?

WHERE THERE ARE NO RULES, THERE CANNOT BE ANY GAMES. TIME TO REDEFINE.

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