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Old Thursday, January 02, 2014
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Default The role of Media in Good governance

The role of media in good governance

Who will guard the guardians?
Latin proverb
Governments exist to guard the person and property of its people. However, often governments themselves turn into tyrants. It is hence, important to erect institutions to check government’s power. A free media can play a great role in promoting good governance and in keeping the government within bounds. In the absence of independent media, good governance cannot exist. In the global context and in Pakistan, good governance is closely linked to government and media partnership to promote good governance and to keep government from abusing her authority.

Good governance is the extent to which public institutions conduct public affairs fairly and manage public resources judiciously. Public institutions like parliament and senate exist to deliberate on issues of national interest. People expect their politicians to think of the welfare of their constituencies. Good governance means that the government is responsible enough in carrying out the function of the country with diligence. The measure of good governance is prosperity of people, smooth functioning of government departments and the electoral process, and a general efficiency in the machinery of the state.

Good governance is only as good as the governing people. Corruption, nepotism, apathy, and vested interests are a plague to proper functioning of the state. With the increase of moral vices good governance decreases. With the decrease in good governance, the trust of people in the government decrease. Along with the trust deficit, the economy and stability of the state are also put at risk. These conditions are far from the ideals of good governance. Good governance demands that the state cater solely to the needs of her people.

United Nations defines good governance as a kind of governance which is based on consensus and participation of people. Consensus of people on national and provincial policy is pivotal to the objectivity of good governance. With the input of all segments of the society on a matter, any issue is sure to be resolved amiably.

Good governance also stands for the upholding of law and order. Law and order are the basic requisite for a state’s proper functioning. Without implementing the writ of the state, good governance is a far cry. E.g. failure of governments to establish their writ in Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Pakistan are examples of the absence of law and order and consequently, absence of good governance.

Effective and efficient government and its administrative institutions give rise to good governance. Corrupt, sluggish, inept, and nepotism ridden departments are neither effective nor are they efficient in carrying out their duties. Such behavior results in nuisance of public at large and gives decreases good governance.

According to UNO, another major component of good governance is the transparency of the functioning of government. Transparency insures that the government is indeed looking out for the benefit of the people and is not looting public resources for their own benefit. Transparency in all matters of political and administrative matters of the government is vital for giving credence to good governance.

In the absence of consensus, participation, and accountability, governments rule with tyranny and oppression. Soon the fabric of society deteriorates and the state succumbs to anarchy.

In 1625, the British beheaded their king for not paying heed to their demands. It is not that the king was powerless. He had an army, but his rule was tyrannical and despotic. He did not govern the people justly. Hence, people revolted and claimed his head. Similarly, in 1782 the French revolution took place due to centuries of lack of good governance. People were brutally oppressed socially, religiously, and economically. They did not have any voice in the parliament. The utter lack of representation, voting, and subjugation resulted in abject misery for the common people. They were hungry and angry. Finally they revolted and beheaded both the king, Louis XIV and the queen, Maria Annetoine. Lack of good governance also proved fatal for the Czar of Russia. During the first World War 1914-1918, Russian revolution broke out which resulted in the annihilation of the whole family of Czar. Thus, lack of catering to the needs of the people and living in opulence at the cost of the poorest could not stop even the strongmen of Britain, France, and Russia, from destruction.

Good governance is the mirror of the socio-religio-economic independence of the people. It is wrong to assume that with economics prosperity alone, good governance can be achieved. Had that been the case, rich Arab countries would not have fallen under the spell of the Arab spring. Even Saudi Arabia, the richest Arab country, is struggling to contain the germs of revolt despite her enormous economy. Wherever there is lack of democratic institutions, good governance cannot proceed.

Good governance is the outcome of democracy. There is a close relationship between democracy and good governance. Democracy can only thrive in a society with free media and politicians working side by side. Throughout the world, the countries with higher democracy score higher on good governance.
Media and government function in a close orchestra. Media brings to the light plights of the people and workings of the government. The government then, intervenes and corrects mistakes and mischiefs of government. They both work to remove impediments in the path of good governance.

The role of media in good governance is indispensable. Media is not just a medium for propagation of information and news to the masses, but it is also the watchdog of national interests. Media keeps a close eye on the functioning of the government. It informs the government about the plight of the people. Similarly, it also allows people to know the operation of the government.

Media has its roots deep in the masses. Media reaches to the farthest corners of the country and reports on every notable event. In this way media is more close to the people than their politicians. Media acts as a messenger between the government and the people. Hence its role in good governance is undisputable.

Media reports factual news. Accurate and reliable information helps the government function properly. Consequently, media reports back to the masses the steps taken by the government. E.g. in 2012 during the dengue epidemic, media provided accurate information to the government on hourly and daily basis. The government concentrated her efforts on areas hit hardest. Similarly, media became mouthpiece of government in propagating preventive measures from dengue virus.

Media also aids good governance by performing her duties objectively, fairly. Media reports events and happenings with professional objectivity. It neither hides facts nor presents selective facts. Media’s role is to remain impartial and report the news as is. In this way it aids in good governance.

An important aspect of media’s role in promoting good governance is the
subject of its report. Conscience media reports on violence, tyranny and oppression of the masses. It voices the concern of the underprivileged. Media’s role in expressing the misery of people of Joseph colony in Lahore is an example of media’s role in good governance. Hence it does not become a mere mouthpiece of the vested interest groups. In favor of the masses, free and independent media provides harsh critique on elements of coercion in the society.

A free and independent media can further help good governance by playing an active role in the electoral process. By highlighting both the achievement and failures of elected representatives, media allows people to take informed decisions while selecting their future representative in elections. With reporting objectively on irregularities in the electoral process, media shows the true face of certain politicians. Media’s projection of politicians in their true colors aids immensely in removing nefarious segments from electoral process. Media believes that vote is a dialogue between government and people. Hence it acts as a legitimate relationship builder between the people and their representatives.

Checking corruption and holding public officials accountable are the hallmarks of a free media. Media highlights financial embezzlements, kickbacks, graft, and nepotism committed by government. Media pressurizes National Accountability Bureau NAB for swift action against corrupt officials. The role of media in bringing down President Nixon in the Watergate scandal is an example of the pervasive power of media. It aims to conserve national resources and saves public money from plundering.

Good governance through free media is more effective if media’s coverage is not only urban centered. Far outreach to the distant villages and dwellings enables voices from all corners to be heard. Reciprocally the voice of the government reaches to the farthest corner.

Radio communication is still the most widespread medium of propagation of news throughout the country. Its power was rightly used by Hitler to propagate German superiority into the hearts of German soldiers and civilian alike. Even Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan TTP uses illegal radio channels to further its cause. This allows the spread of message to a large populace at low cost and high coverage. Conversely, governments can use mass media like radio to reach out to its people and propagate the message of brotherhood and peace.

Media promotes good governance through generating dialogue. A dialogue between different stake holders helps foster a friendly environment where different segments of society may exchange views. It acts as a go between government and people. In absence of any meaningful dialogue between the two, misgivings sprout among the masses which leads to friction, as witnessed in the Arab spring.

However, media’s role in good governance can only be possible with the independence of media per se. media as a lapdog of the state serves the interest of the few. It covers up government misdeeds and hides its atrocities from pubic knowledge. Media in collusion with the government may feed falsehood and induce indoctrination for its own ends, thus subverting good governance and transparency. Example of media’s cover up of Bengal famine of 1943 is a testimony to this.

Media is prone to government censorship and intimidation. Journalists are routinely harassed and stopped from pursuing issues which might expose ill deeds of the government. Journalists killing are inimical to media’s functioning. Pakistan is rated 2nd in the world in journalist deaths after Afghanistan. Media is hence hampered from performing her duties dutifully towards promoting good governance.

State control of media as in the case of Iran, China, North Korea and even pre 2001 Pakistan, does little to promote good governance. Media can neither remain objective and impartial in reporting events nor can it serve as a critic of government’s workings. Without the ability to speak its mind, media cannot remain a functional organ.

Democracy can flourish only in the presence of a free and conscience media. Dan Brown considers media to be the right arm of anarchy. Media can be a force of both positive and negative forces. For good governance to flourish, it is imperative that media remains positive. A reciprocal relation thus exists between good governance and media functioning. Both complement one another in functioning properly.

Pakistan has witnessed both media censorship and a new era of media independence since 2001. Masses remained largely ignorant during media censorship period, especially during military regimes. Hence good governance is lowest during periods of media blackouts.
With independence of media and the launch of a multitude of new TV and radio channels, government has become more prone to scrutiny from various quarters of public. Media’s relentless pursuit of the manner in which government functions forces government to think wisely before pursuing a line of action.

However, a utopian media does not exist either in the world or in Pakistan. Media is plagued internally and externally. Knowing that it can pose a formidable foe and that it can greatly influence public opinion, media is tempted to use her power to perpetuate her own agenda. Media independence does facilitate good governance. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Media ought to reflect national consensus and not propagate her own inclinations.

Pakistani media has grown with leaps and bounds during in the last decade. It has focused more on gaining independence than in fostering the professionalism required of it. Hence, Pakistani media today is not the one which would ideally be sought.

This is not to say that all hope is lost and that media is a new tyrant in its own. Media has served in promoting governance many a times. It has helped in liberating judiciary in 2007; it has thrown light on mega scandals ranging from irregularities in Hajj operations to NLC scams. It has performed a commendable role in elections of both 2008 and 2013. Its moment to moment coverage of the events leading to the elections, during the election process, and the follow up of elections has helped masses develop informed decision. It has raised awareness on prevention of dengue epidemic and on the need to conserve gas and electricity. Hence, media has done her fair share in promoting good governance in various ways.

However, despite her commendable efforts, media has been known to promote the agenda of the political parties to whom it owes her allegiance. This mars the transparency required off her. It is important to realign media on lines of national objectives.

Media ought to be purged from allegiances to all vested interest groups including political parties and financial circles. By doing so, media can focus on pursuing happenings objectively and without duress. It can also help in allowing her to scrutinize government as her own hands would be clean.
In promoting good governance media should realign her goals away from projecting sensationalist news towards morally and politically relevant events. With functioning as a watchdog of public interest and serving as a constant reminder to government regarding ailments of the society, media can play a significant role in promoting good governance.

Media and government nexus ought to collaborate closely to address societal issues and to raise awareness on issues on political relevance and economic prudence. An independent media can be a great asset to further nationalist agenda and policies for the benefit of the people.

Pithily, it can be argued that good governance is greatly contingent on the proper and ethical functioning of the free media. Good governance is the ability of the government to conduct public affairs properly and to spend public resources prudently. A free media can help navigate government policies towards achieving the goal of good governance. Media is the voice of the people. It is very important for the government to feel the pulse of public. It is only independent mass media which can serve this purpose. Hence media is indispensable for both democracy and good governance.
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Kindly scrutinize this feeble attempt.

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