Every year, November 16 is celebrated as National Press Day – a day to celebrate free and unbiased press in order to evaluate the ground reality around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Odisha Police (@odisha_police) expressed greetings to all media persons on twitter:

Warm greetings to all media persons on #NationalPressDay. A free and responsible press that reports the truth fearlessly is the foundation of a strong democracy. Our best wishes #FourthPillarOfDemocracy

The press in India is under threat big time – from censorship being imposed on it by Indira Gandhi to playing a huge role in the 2014 elections. The current election atmosphere has also seen the usage of press; both electronic and print to sway the public opinion. A Paris based non-profit organisation

works on documenting and combating attacks on journalists around the world. As per the findings, the atmosphere for journalists around the world has become increasingly uncomfortable. Speaking about India, it has dropped two places on the global press freedom index, and is ranked 140th out of 180 nations in the annual ‘Reporters Without Borders’ released its World Press Freedom Index for 2019 recently, with the lead up to the ongoing Indian general elections flagged as a particularly dangerous time for journalists.

Last year, India was witness to violent crimes against journalists. Six journalists were killed during various instances of violence – including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters, and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians. This is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India.

Congress (@INCIndia) has tweeted a survey on “Threats to Safety of Journalists” found that 3 in 5 journalists have been threatened. Majority of these journalists believe it is because of an angle or type of story they have taken up. Is it still safe to be an honest journalist in “New India”? #NationalPressDay

Free Journalism is democracy

Democratic countries are widely believed to stand on four pillars. While Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary form three of them, the Press is considered to be the fourth pillar. It is widely believed that in the absence of free media, the chances of democracy surviving are grim.

The media, over the years, has turned into propaganda platforms and source of biased viewpoints. Press, in its true sense, should enlighten the people about their rights and duties. At times, it should take on the other three pillars, which are the institutions of democracy. It is the press that acts as the mouthpiece of the public. We all are aware of the anti-corruption movement back in 2011. It was the press that brought people to the streets thus forcing the government to bring in a Lokpal Bill.

Today, unfortunately, with due pressure, Indian media is reduced to being a mouthpiece for various political organisations and business groups. Media is acting as an artistic assistant and at times is merely taking dictation from the influential figures, as their business relies on support from such organisations. 

Hostility towards journalists across the globe is growing, making it an extremely dangerous profession. As per a recent report by the International Federation of Journalists, 2,297 journalists have been killed since the 1990s. This further highlights raising united voice for Freedom on National Press Day to create awareness about the essence of press freedom among the citizens.