There has been a paradigm shift in media diversity and choices, outreach, benefit derivation and capacity for public good and harm. An information explosion is testing readers' or viewers' ability to digest, process, absorb and learn -- in one word, cudgeling the brain ever more intensely than before.
The social media, also known as global citizen media, is a 'non-believer in objectivity' because it is free for all in its origin and dissemination. Individualised and group-based in germination and posting, its authenticity and reliability may be open to question. There print and electronic media may have an advantage depending upon the veracity of its perspective and objectivity of its presentation. That doesn't mean, however, that one media is superior to another; as a matter of fact, they can be mutually reinforcing and complementary.
The biggest virtue of the new or alternative media is its networking providing for interaction and participation. It is first to get news across even from otherwise closed and prohibitive societies. That way it has revolutionised freedom of expression, access to information and power of information.
In Bangladesh, bloggers and facebookians criticise government's and opposition's failings inducing a degree of skepticism in them about the social media. Of course, the best practice method will have to be adopted against cyber crime and to that extent a code is necessary. But cyber space should be seen as a boon and utilised as such if we are to be a part of the knowledge society.
New media's use in health sector, particularly tele-medicine has a great prospect in providing customised services to people who could neither read nor write. Bangladesh Systems Change Advocacy Network (B-Scan) is helping to create perceptions and attitudes in differently-abled persons and updating them with the latest medical cures.
The question of media policies has often figured with the power that be but has mostly been confined to rhetoric. Occasional attempts at imposing a policy package came swiftly under fire from the intelligentsia. Actually, 'media policymaking process should include relevant media people, owners and investors, civil society organisations, citizens' groups, media policy experts, and even non-state actors along with the government authority'. The policy per force would have to be inclusive and flexible in order to keep pace with technological changes.
In truth, political power play and private capital have continued to 'shape television ownership and the content post-1990', as a media expert has argued. Little or no investment is made in investigative reporting or special or exclusive stories lest it displeases certain quarters.
The World Press Freedom Day provided an opportunity to take a closer look at the state of media freedom, ethics and safety of journalists in Bangladesh. If the cases of defamation and legal charges, self-censorship by media which refrained from exposing corruption and irregularities of business organisations and corporate bodies and instances of journalists being harassed, threatened and abused are taken into account, the level of press freedom in Bangladesh leaves much to be desired. Little wonder, Reporters Sans Frontiers ranked Bangladesh 129th on a global press freedom scale. While the perception is press is free in Bangladesh, it still has some material ground to cover to be truly free but responsible.