The fourth Estate

The media the world over is well known for different reasons. Some have been part of uprisings, rebellions; fights for justice while others are simply profit making enterprises. Citizens become journalists and journalists can go on and become celebrities. Journalism and journalists cannot be clearly defined.

However, the one quality they all have in common is the power to influence. Whether it is a government owned agency that only promotes the government, a privately owned one that is influenced by advertisers or just a credible journalist, their sphere of influence is immense. We all have favorite papers, news channels and public figures that we trust and look up to.

India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to its citizens but has one law that says no citizen or organization can incite the public against the government or the country. It is the law of sedition. Arundhati Roy, a novelist, an activist and journalist has come under fire for this same reason.

Kashmir, a widely disputed area in north India has been in the news for years as India and Pakistan both want to claim her for their own, while some citizens want to form an independent state.

Roy at a rally in Kashmir recently said,” Kashmir has never been an integral part of India”.

She also said India had ‘colonized’ Kashmir after the British left in 1947.This has created furor in the country with two groups up in arms, one that says charging her with sedition goes against the right to free speech while the other thinks her statement was far too provocative in already tense atmosphere.

She has been outspoken in her support for a number of causes including environmental issues in India. Most of her statements have been legitimate and supported by logical argument but this comment seems to have come from someone who is now so used to creating a sensation that she just needs more attention.

If you are a public figure and have the power to influence a large number of people it becomes doubly important to weigh the words you use and how you use them. As an aspiring journalist I can only say that if I had the power to impact so many people I would make sure I was doing it for the right reasons which at this point seems like the last thing on Roy’s mind.

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a great topic, as it really exposes the core issue about freedom of speech. At what point should the government intervene and stop an individual from expressing themselves? In the US it is illegal and punishable to should out FIRE FIRE in a public gathering such as an auditorium….this again could be viewed as a violation of the Constitutional Right of Freedom of Speech. The understanding should be that if the individual acts in an irresponsible manner with his or her words, then it should be the government’s duty to stop such a person from damaging or creating a hostile environment.
    The media culture today seems all about their ratings. The more controversy they can create the better it is for the channels. Case in Point – The reporter – Juan Williams from NPR news made a controversial statement about muslims. The news station terminated his employment, and the very next day he was hired by Fox News offering him twice his salary at NPR….these “Shock-Jocks” should be barred from any public reporting. Personally, I feel that Ms Roy is trying to bring the same Shock value by making statements like these….Instead of discussing her comments at every news – we should enfore a GAG ORDER on her and totally boycott her…not for her views but for being insentive to all the soldiers that have given up their lives defending our country….HOW DARE SHE!

  2. This a very debatable subject and there should be a governing body to look into this matter, body which would have a certain framework,legislation and mandates which would look into individual credibility and acts before expressing themselves in such public gatherings as these gatherings have immense potential to influence.

  3. The Press council of india is the body that is supposed to regulate the media however it has no punitive powers. if it did, i believe situations like these could be mended by giving adequate punishment and without violation of human rights.

  4. Public figures have the responsibility to make sure their actions are sensitive to the impact on the people that admire them. So also journalists. Good one Chandni!

  5. Wow! Absolutely right.

    The media should be curbed and also individually who comments on topic of national interest in a negative way, fuelling more hatred.

    She should visit the people who are affected before passing comments.

    A single visit to a family who has lost a young son to terrorist attack, would bring this woman to her senses.


  6. Politicians often speak utter rubbish at their rallies…but the public by large understands their ulterior motives…but a nobody one book wonder like
    roy should refrain from making such statements just because she has access to the media…jai hind

  7. great work !!!!!!

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