The accountability of the Fourth Estate
is often said that the media is the fourth estate.
This not so palatable definition of the mass media was given
by the communist school. The media was seen as a propagator
of bourgeois culture. The concept of communism, and with it
all that it stood for, has become a matter of the past, at least
for the present. However, within the confines of liberal pluralistic
democracy, mass media is still perceived as the fourth estate,
because it is the guardian of democracy and defender of public
interest. Edmund Burke was quoted as saying that, …there
were three estates in the parliament; but, in the reporters'
gallery yonder, there sat a fourth estate more important than
they all. Historian Carlyle, who brought this quotation
to light, did so to describe this power of the media as the
newly found power of the man of letters, and, by extension the
newspaper reporter. In his account, it seems that the press
are a new fourth estate added to the then conceived
powers that be i.e. priesthood, aristocracy and the commoners.
a number of thinkers all over the world who can be quoted as
giving the media, more importantly the print media a power that
is, crucial, unlimited, and enviable. This importance of the
fourth estate or whichever name you wish to call it by is vital
to the generic rights of human beings living in a democratic
or quasi-democratic society. Nothing must go unchallenged. In
fact the citizens of a country have every right to know what
is going on around them.
day Bangladesh, we see a proliferation of media of all kinds.
There are at least two radio stations, four TV stations (and
some more are coming) and innumerable newspapers. Quite a large
number of these are dailies. For our discussion today let us
leave out the periodicals and concentrate just on the dailies.
The dailies give out today's news tomorrow. They write commentaries,
special reports, post editorials, etc. to make the readers aware
of an issue or event and to form their own opinion about it.
With some semblance of democracy established in this country
after '91, the newspapers here have got a tail wind. Whether
this means freedom of press is a question that still remains
foggy because the government still reserves the right of controlling
the insolent press by reducing their revenue allocation through
the State sponsored advertisements. Unfortunately for us, the
private sector, still being at its infancy, cannot support the
print media adequately. Therefore, the twist in the Papers'
tail, if I do not like you, is still in order. With the electronic
media it is a different ball game all together. That media is
hotboth in terms of reach and popularity. So, even the private
channels have to watch out, whether it is entertainment or information
that they undertake to broadcast. Therefore, the powers that
be are safe--absolutely safe in terms of electronic media and
a little less in print. Only some exceedingly brave scribes
venture to indulge in truthful criticism that run the risk of
being sorted out at a suitable time.
of the establishment is popular. But what if you cannot be as
critical as you would like to be for the risk involved in it?
Well if you can't you should opt for someone harmless and would
not be able to hit back. So we see some of our newsmen in some
of our newspapers extremely keen to select a feeble adversary
and wage a war against him or her. At this point I would hazard
the question, how far should the mandate of the fourth estate
extend in countries like ours? I would not have asked this question
at all if the zealots in the field of journalism would have
behaved responsibly, if they would not have used the feeble
few and their yet to be proven "wrong deeds" to further
the sale of their newspapers. Most importantly, if they would
not add fuel to the fire of imagination to fabricate such flippant
soap opera reports to titillate their readers. What is more
tragic in a society like ours is that the victims of these misdemeanours
are women. Especially women connected with show business. Women
of a male dominated society where they have to continuously
endeavour to prove they are innocent and deserve a break. This
is what the representatives of the fourth estate must realise.