“If the Media is not utilized as an instrument of social change, then change will pave its own way, which can have lethal repercussions for society”
– Prof Qasim Raza Siddiqui, 2008
Mass Media, an important stakeholder holds a significant space in civil society and contributes enormously in bringing about awareness for essential change in any society. Media has
this tremendous responsibility to let issues related to child rights – children’s safety and protection, their right to Education, their health and development and overall welfare as important questions to keep alive in public debate.
It is continuously felt that Media houses, owned by big corporations have political affiliation and favoritism. It is largely this political leaning which contributes in deciding what goes on air, with how much weightage and for how long. German sociologist Habermas thinks the function of Media has been transformed from facilitating rational discourse and debate within the public sphere into shaping, constructing and limiting discourse to those themes validated and approved by Media Corporation. According to his theory the interconnection between a sphere of public debate and individual participation has been thus fractured and transmitted into that of a realm of political information and spectacle, in which a citizen absorbs ‘passively’. Thus ‘citizens’ become spectators of Media presentations, representations and discourse which mould public opinion, reducing citizens to objects of news, information and public affair.
However, having said that there is no debate that there are many examples of ‘good’ journalism in the recent past which has generated mass awareness around issues pertaining to child rights especially child protection. In the recent past there has been extensive Media coverage on Nithari case (2006) where innocent children were abused and brutally killed and buried, the famous Arushi and Hemraj double murder case (2008) a case of suspected honor killing, and the case of brutal rape of a 5-year-old girl in Delhi. These and many others like dismal status of children living in shelter home etc gathered tremendous media attention and somewhere very boldly questioned accountability of the decision makers.
Media and Communication systems is increasing becoming central areas of profit making in today’s modern capitalist societies. I think 24*7 news channels certainly holds all capacities to mesmerize and influences the thought pattern of masses to such an extent that one might get filled with empathy by looking at sadden faces, abandoned children and shock struck individuals giving media bytes to innumerable humming media channel personnel. When I look at coverage of child rights issues in our county, I am of an opinion that not all the news channels and newspaper practice ‘responsible’ journalism/reporting. Merely by not naming and blurring the picture or giving her a pseudo name does not ensure communication the right ‘news’ to the viewers.
Reporting and covering child protection issues is not merely covering a sensational news piece but it goes much beyond that. It is an act of bringing the issue of child rights and child protection in public debate and policy discourse and thus resulting in serious effort to capture the route followed to avail justice.
The issue of bringing about mass awareness around child right is a serious sustained commitment and political will. We house millions of children in our country who are malnourished, live in extremely unprotected environment, who are often abused in and are engaged in labor instead of spending their childhood in school.
There is serious challenge for modern day Media to responsibly keep taking up child rights issue and keep them alive in public discourse.
Anuja Kastia Shah, Associate General Manager, Policy, CRY – Child Rights and You