Newspapers educate people. They are the world’s mirrors. Many people who are not in a position to go to school or college get all their education through the papers. The articles on different subjects help one to add to one’s knowledge.
Newspapers play a very important role in a democracy, which attaches great importance to the freedom of the Press. They are, the “fourth estate”. The first Amendment to the US Constitution lays down that the Congress shall have no power to reduce the freedom of the Press. According to Janus, the liberty of the Press is the ‘Palladium’ of all the evil, political and religious rights of an Englishman.
Newspapers are indispensable to the effective working of democracy. They criticise the government, if it shows slackness and follows policies that are detrimental to the people. They should always stand for justice and fairplay and try their best to safeguard the lights of the citizens. It is their duty to bring to light the corruption, inefficiency, and moral turpitude etc. of those in power. V.K. Krishna Nienon, Defence Minister, was severely criticised for the defeat when China attacked in 1962. N. Sanjiva Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, resigned in 1964 because of the involvement in the “Kurnool road transport case”. The Watergate scandal made President Nixon resign in 1974. In 1982, Nicholass Fairbairn, Solicitor General for. Scotland resigned because he had unwisely told the Press he would not prosecute three men arrested for a brutal attack and rape. Cecil Parkinson resigned as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, following the disclosure of his affair with Sara Keye,-who was expecting his child. It was a breach of promise and caddish behaviour that sealed his fate, despite Margaret Thatcher’s full support. Madhav Singh Solanki, Minister for External Affairs, resigned in 1992 for handing over a leiter to a lawyer in Davos (Switzerland), whose name he professed not to remember. On May, 16, 1994 the Haryana P.W.D. Minister Anand Singh Dangi resigned because of the irregularities he had committed in the appointment of tax inspectors in 1991. It was the newspapers that brought about the resignation of these persons. According to Napoleon, the Man of Destiny, four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.
Our newspapers lost freedom when National Emergency was declared in June 1975. The Feroze Gandhi Act that gives freedom to the Press to publish the proceedings of Parliament and the State Legislature was repealed. Censorship was imposed on them. As a result, the people could not know the real happenings in the country. Only when the Emergency was lifted (March 1977) did the people come to know of the cruelties committed during the Emergency. The censorship of the Press introduced by Mrs Indira Gandhi was mainly responsible for the defeat of the Congress Party in the-General Election held in March 1997. When the Janata Government came into power, the Feroze Gandhi Act Was restored. The censorship was also removed. After the Emergency a new kind of journalism began. “Investigative reporting entered the Indian Press, turned over some stones and found ugliness beneath” (Trevor Fishlock).
Newspapers also serve other purposes. They help to create public opinion on important issues. The grievances of the people are brought to the notice of the authorities concerned. They tell them what the government does for them. The reader comes to know of job opportunities, market rates, films, sports and games, T.V. and Radio programs and new products, in addition to the important and interesting events taking place in the country and abroad. Matrimonial advertisements are useful to parents.
Newspapers must be impartial. They should not become mouthpieces of political parties. The owners of the most of the newspapers in India are tycoons. They are not interested in the welfare of the masses. They protect only their own selfish interests. Most of the Press, to quote Trevor Fishlock, is conservative and certainly most proprietors with their considerable business interests and preference for status quo do not wish to fall foul of the government.
Newspapers must attach supreme importance to veracity. On no account should they fall prey to yellow journalism.