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The press is a broad term now; it not only includes newspapers, news weeklies and magazines but also all the journalists working in the media print and electronic. It plays great role in the iteration of public opinion. It also acts as a regulator and reflector of the same, interacting between the people and political parties and in between government of the country and the people. Hence, if the character of the press is healthy, the democratic system will be more transparent to what is actually transacting on side of government and what are the views and reactions of the people in respect thereof. The comment of the press over the specific matters will be helpful in setting dimensions for the respective state policies and their implementation and the pattern of thinking of the people. In this way, it facilitates the smooth functioning of the whole democratic system.
To be free for press, as such, is to be fair, impartial, unprejudiced and honest in according treatment to the coverage of news and events connected with different socio-political quarters and the government at large. One of the highest criteria to judge the free press, however, is that it is not subservient to the vested interests and the versions are not tempered, distorted, sponsored, or otherwise politically initiated.
According to a survey conducted by the New York based Freedom House, only one person out of fives lives in a country with free press. The survey measures press freedom by assessing the impact of laws, administrative decisions and economic or political influences on the content of the news media.
The well-organized section of press is always in regular and close contact with the people and a reputation of presenting actual and concomitant situation. That’s why it is more influential and effective in formation of public opinion and molding it.
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The responsible quarters of the press, for instance, the section constituting the ‘national press’, exercise a higher sense of responsibility towards the people and the state and restrain in reporting and keep in the line with the national interest. Their comments are fact based and not on forerun conclusion.
Government is all the more conscious of the effective and strong role of the press and cannot afford to ignore it. The ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India runs a Press Information Bureau (PIB) to deal with the press matter and photographs to cater the needs of print media. Then there are Press Relation Officers and official spokespersons. Where there are no independent Press Relation Officers, Public relation Officers deal with the information to the press on specific queries concerning their respective departments.
Freedom of press, as such, is symbolic of democracy and a measure to judge the character of the State. It implies right to information and access of pressmen to it, including right to exposures affecting matters of public and national interests. The reporters are provided access to all the ministers and bureaucrats and enjoy right to question and seek explanations and clarifications on specific points in course of a course of an interview or during a press conference.
There is also a centralized mechanism to control and regulate publication of newspapers throughout the country. The Registrar of Newspapers for India allots titles to the publishers on prescribed application received through the prescribed authority for which there is a prescribed procedure. The same forwarding authority, after allotment of titles by the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) authenticates publication of newspapers, periodicals and magazines etc. in the National Capital Territory of Delhi the declaration for newspapers are signed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police for licensing while in states magistrates do the same. Registrar of Newspaper for India, also sanctions, newsprint quotas to the publishers of the respective newspapers and issues certificate of registration after the publication of the same.
The publishers are required to submit annual returns to the RNI. Other necessary facilities to the newspapers are extended on the basis of their registration and regularity of publication. Government confers accreditation to the press reporters to provide access to them to the government office to gather information and attend press conferences held by it or under its auspices by foreign concerns and visiting dignitaries.
The government controls and regulates professional interests of the working journalists and other employees of the newspaper industry. There are several organizations of the working journalists, editors and reporters who raise their voice to safeguard their interests.
Government exercises its power to restrict access of press one way or the other, casually and technically. It is in the name of official secret, top graded documents, sensitive matters, apprehension of breach of peace, ‘likely to cause’ communal disharmony and hatred between the communities and on plea of national security etc. in such cases only the version of the official agency or the specially designated unit at the state level is permitted to be published in the newspapers. The district administration if finds any news item against the public interest contained in any newspaper, confiscates the entire copies of it throughout its jurisdiction. Defamatory cased are also filed against the staff reporters and representatives of the newspaper by administrative officers.
Press in India has come up to the expectation of people. Recently so many scams were exposed and the culprits were brought to book. The credit undoubtedly goes to India press.