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Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 18:52 Written by Written by Zaw Zaw Aung
Photo shows farmers protesting against the Chinese copper mine in Salingyi township of Monywa district
“In this age, whoever keeps a grip on the media keeps a grip on the country”, as the saying goes. It implies that if a person or a group of people can exert an influence on the media, the country belongs to them. Simply put, the right to the political, executive, economic domination of the country.
In the olden days, the three entities above were termed ‘State Power’. Power could be seized by means of military coup. Tanks, cannons, weapons were used to remain in power. To be frank, forces were used and atrocities committed in a bid to oust the incumbent government. Events as such became known as ‘coup’, which was later transliterated as ‘coup d’état’. The sudden overthrow of the government with armed struggle symbolizes the coup d’état. Arms were used to frighten the general public. Nowadays, armed forces, police forces and weapons are no longer in fashion. The media has come to the fore in securing power. In other words, the media is more influential than tanks and cannons.
What is media, then? It would be silly to explain what has been already clear. No further explanation is needed. Yet, a prominent chief editor mistook ‘media’ for ‘medium’ in a recent interview. Without making any correction to it, the editor of that news journal published the interview as it was. My point here is that they keep up pretences. It is however okay for the simple reason that young, smart journalists will soon take their place. Let it be. Basically, the media is of five kinds – newspapers, news journals, magazines, radio and television. (Under the umbrella term ‘journalism’, they provide information. Those involved in this field are called ‘journalists’. Some people call them ‘mediamen’ simply because ‘journalism’ and ‘media’ are interchangeable.) Having said that, what makes the media more powerful than tanks and cannons?
Hyperbolic expressions about mediamen/journalists are absolutely unnecessary. In layman’s terms, mediamen and journalists mean the same. They both write news and in a broader sense give information. But what kinds of news? News about the truth and public interests. To be precise, journalists write what is right and what serves the public interests. These two things are like the two sides of a coin. They are interdependent. That is why journalists hold them in high esteem, assuming that their career is the most important of all. They never take sides. All they know is to serve the public interests only. When it comes to telling the truth, they must stand for the public, even if they find it hard to make a choice between the public and the government. There is no need to favour the government. Journalists should take this point seriously.
There is a world famous example. Falkland War in 1982 caused a row between the British Government and the BBC as the news corporation did not take side with the government, and reported the news faithfully. The British Government told the BBC to take the same stand with it as it thought the news corporation was responsible to do so. The BBC did not accept absolute impartiality. They needed to have bias. Which side should they have bias towards? They should have bias towards the matters of truth, justice and legality. The media naturally could not take the same stand with the government if Falkland War did not meet the criterion of truth, justice and legality. The BBC announced that they could not take the same stand with the British Government and reported the news faithfully. This was a world famous incident which earned the media a reputation. This was also an historic incident.
To sum up, the media is powerful. Media men should uphold the truth and public interest. Media men should stand for public interest. Media men do not bias.