It is beyond doubt or debate that the freedom of speech or expression of the media and press, and for that matter every citizen, is very important and a fundamental right. But, even if it is not so promulgated through the Constitution, it is also equally important that this freedom needs to be exercised with responsibility and due care lest it might prove to be counterproductive and detrimental to the very interest of the contemporary society and nation.
I recall a short story from my childhood which my primary school teacher had narrated in his speech on one of the Independence Day celebrations. As per the narration, the nation was celebrating Independence Day on 15th August, 1947 with great gaiety and jubilation. A young man became so excited that he started running open shirt on the middle of the road shouting, “We are independent, we are free to do anything now…” People tried to stop him from running on the middle of the road considering risks involved. He simply refused to listen, continued hid chorus and was soon crushed by a speeding truck on the road. The small narration, true or imaginary, does carry a sensible message that freedom comes with responsibility and accountability and not with an outlandish behavior.
Off late, there has been a proactive and mushrooming growth in press and media reporting, particularly electronic media, emphasizing freedom of speech and expression. Consequently, even a small negative incident or event is so often given such a magnitude and colour that it generates a widespread attention, criticism and reaction nationwide. Incidents of crime, accidents, communal conflicts, personal matters and misdemeanors of famous people etc. are often disproportionately highlighted and repeated time and again. Incidentally, on majority occasions the positive incidents or developments do not receive same attention.
Why is so that abhorrent incidents of murder, loot, bombings, illicit relations, communal tensions, deaths etc. get so much attention in the media and press? Why is so that our media functions in a manner which encourages citizens to get pampered and raise expectations from the government all the time to do everything from ordinary cleaning to make available all physical comforts of high living at no or insignificant cost. People will own pets and take them on the road in the morning to do it and leave it for municipal staff to clear the mess. They will put garbage and litter papers everywhere, instead of using bin, and complain about the governance for the filth and dirt.
There are far more crucial and burning social issues like ones relating to class conflict, gender discrimination and social evils related to women, girl child, dowry, female feticide, on which media and people do loud protestation in public but a majority continues to carry on just reverse at home. People justify things by arguing that it is the entire system that needs change, hence mere changing or forgoing their rights of dowry or child preference would hardly bring any impact.
I wonder why our media and many people are so negative! Why do we ignore or underestimate our strength and achievements? There are so many positive developments and success stories available for publicity and coverage which might even inspire many people to do things. There are humble citizens and groups doing significant social or community service without seeking attention or caring for publicity but strangely they are either not covered or just get a passing reference once in a while.
When we talk of governance, our responsibility does not end at the ballot box. To my mind, it is me, you, we, our neighbours, other households in the vicinity, communities, cities and finally government. If we maintain pet, we must make arrangement to clear their shit; if we generate garbage, we must ensure its disposal in a prescribed manner. If we want proper and uninterrupted services viz., water, electricity, sanitation and cleanliness then we should be ready to pay for at least the cost of the service. Negativity will take us to nowhere; subsidies and cross-subsidies are hardly any solution, except for those below the poverty line.
Should the ordinary citizen and media not realize this? We should first do our duties as citizens and the media must take responsibility to have more focus on positive reporting. Only blaming the governance for all the negative developments and attributes will hardly serve any purpose.