Right to Information Act 2005 is a milestone legislation in the recent history that is designed to bring transparency in our polity, society and economy to successfully check corruption. But resistance from the corrupt people in the higher authority is making it difficult for effective implementation.
Referring to the RTI Act, Union Minister Mr. AK Antony reportedly said RTI will help the transparency revolution to percolate down to all walks of life. He said, “The RTI Act will spread to new areas. I think every facet of human life will be transparent.” This is slowly happening in India under this act.
Nevertheless, we need to bring important institutions under the purview of this act. Media as an institution needs to be under the purview of the RTI act. There is and there will be resistance from media houses on this but in the largest interest we need to move in this direction.
Besides the ideological and political inclinations and affiliations media has, over the years, it has become more and more powerful with developing business interest. It has become an industry that is engaged in making profit. In short its turning into a business of what Noam Chomsky said “manufacturing consent” most of the time ending in creating perceptions which may or may not be right.
The demand to bring Media under RTI assumes more significance when our leading journalists and channel heads are found brokering with the political parties and determining the fate of Cabinet Ministers to benefit their advertisers or sponsors. The Nira Radia saga has been a classic example.
Recently, a channel head was found guilty of demanding salaries for their employees to a Public Relations Manager.
Paid news is another blot on our media that is subverting the democratic process. Media exposés have shown that several organizations have been selling news space to politicians at election time, disguising the advertisements as news. The Press Council of India has set up a committee to investigate violations of the journalistic code of fair and objective reporting.
Press Council of India reported, “The phenomenon of ‘paid news’ has acquired serious dimensions. Today it goes beyond the corruption of individual journalists and media companies and has become pervasive, structured and highly organized. In the process, it is undermining democracy in India.”
Another dimension of how media is threatening our democracy is the use of public money in creating wrong perceptions. The political parties, especially in the government are using public money to improve their government and parties’ image which might be contrary to the fact.
Sometimes this media relation exercise by the governments ends up curbing public sentiments and doing injustice with people. Many of the owners, editors and other journalists appear to have wealth excessive of their known sources of income. It is thus imperative that they not only become transparent but also bring “secrets” under RTI Act.
Other three pillars of democracy – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary – are already under the purview of RTI Act.
Corruption is rampant in media houses too in the name of paid news and public relation exercises. BeyondHeadlines, therefore, demand that media houses should fall under the ambit of RTI and it should also be included in the Lokpal bill. – Beyond Headlines, New Delhi, August 24, 2010