In Political Science, the executive, judiciary and legislature are considered to be the three pillars or the three most important powers that shape a democracy. However, with the advent of media and press, people soon started identifying a 'fourth pillar' or a fourth power that had to change the political condition of a nation. The 'fourth pillar' of democracy is Media because it has the potential to shape public opinion. In democratic countries, the political ideas and notions of the common public are often formed by the reports printed in newspapers and magazines. The famous British philosopher, thinker and essayist Thomas Carlyle was the first person to have addressed the importance of the press in a democracy. He addressed the press as the 'Fourth Estate' of a democratic nation and also considered it to be more powerful than the remaining three estates. The primary reason for this is that the media plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion about the government. Thus, media and politics have a close relationship and are interdependent on one another.
Some of the significant aspects of the relationship between media and politics have been discussed below.
The first objective of the media is to provide people with information. With the help of the Internet, the reach and coverage of media reports have become global. People can now access information regarding the political, economic and social conditions of any nation across the globe with the click of a button! Similarly, they can access various types of information regarding their countries with the help of the Internet. Media too has ceased to remain bound by print alone and has morphed itself into 'social media'. All of these are primarily methods through which the media provides information to people. In a democratic nation, it is the people who elect the government. Thus, if the information provided by the media is critical of the existing government, then it is bound to make people lose faith in the present legislative body.
Similarly, if the information provided by the media paints a positive image of the existing government, then the people too will feel good about the government. Thus, the media and politics share a close relationship when it comes to influencing people. Many governments have fallen due to the information provided by the media. Media thus plays a crucial role in shaping the notion of people regarding the government and political parties.
Media, especially the press, is expected to be impervious to political power and journalists should firmly believe in reporting the truth. Journalists should not be affected by the opinions of leaders of political parties. Moreover, the media itself should be democratic and not prone to providing only a particular type of news. This helps in creating a plurality of opinion amongst people. In other words, media personnel should report incidents honestly without giving it any political colour. Say, for instance, a political leader was behaving contrary to protocols and expected guidelines, then the media should report it to the public honestly. Journalists should not use such an incident to colour the members of the other political parties in better colours. This will bias the public opinion against certain political parties and create unnecessary prejudices. Thus, political incidents too should be reported with absolute honesty so that people can have their views, which have been developed in an unbiased manner. This subsequently helps in developing a plurality of opinions. Media plays a crucial role in creating diversity regarding political views amongst people.
The objective of media personnel should be to report matters honestly. The aim of journalists and others involved in the print media should not be to increase the circulation of their papers or magazines but to report cases as they see. In other words, the media should be honest. However, sometimes honest journalism becomes difficult due to political pressure on print media. To divert public opinion on their behalf, political parties often resort to pressure tactics to force newspapers to publish biased opinions. In other words, leaders of political parties often use media to fulfil their political agendas. Media should be allowed to function freely and without any political pressure. However, along with honest journalism, journalists must practise responsible journalism. This will ensure that the reports they provide are sincere and people are allowed to develop their notions. The objective of journalists should be to offer reports with sincerity and responsibility so that people can build their individual opinions regarding political parties.
The Internet has given rise to another form of communication viz. Social media platforms wherein people who are entirely unrelated to each other can exchange opinion, political views and notions. Often these platforms are used to provide people with information about the social, political and economic conditions of their countries. These social media platforms thus are a part of social media. Political parties soon recognized the power of social media in influencing and controlling the political opinions of the public. Thus, political parties started using social media to divert public opinion on their behalf. In such a scenario, it became essential for social media users to develop ideologies that made these platforms democratic. Owners of social media platforms often implement rules to ensure that social media remains unbiased and a place for communication amongst individuals. Comments that can incite political unrest are usually removed from such platforms and individuals making such comments are often banned from using the platforms.
Thus, the relationship between media and politics is a complex one because one is dependent on the other. Still, it is the primary objective of the media to report all political matters with absolute honesty. This may prove to be detrimental for certain political parties or the existing government. Hence it is media alone that can shape public opinion regarding the political condition of a country and the world as a whole.
Mar 17, 2020