Shakeel Ahmad Shaheen
Governments exist to guard the person and property of its people. However, often governments themselves turn into tyrants. It is hence, important to erect institutions to check government’s power. A free media can play a great role in promoting good governance and in keeping the government within bounds. In the absence of independent media, good governance cannot exist. In the global context and in Pakistan, good governance is closely linked to government and media partnership to promote good governance and to keep government from abusing her authority.
Good governance is only as good as the governing people. Corruption, nepotism, apathy, and vested interests are a plague to proper functioning of the state. With the increase of moral vices good governance decreases. With the decrease in good governance, the trust of people in the government decrease. Along with the trust deficit, the economy and stability of the state are also put at risk. These conditions are far from the ideals of good governance. Good governance demands that the state cater solely to the needs of her people.
Media and government function in a close orchestra. Media brings to the light plights of the people and workings of the government. The government then, intervenes and corrects mistakes and mischief’s of government. They both work to remove impediments in the path of good governance.
The role of media in good governance is indispensable. Media is not just a medium for propagation of information and news to the masses, but it is also the watchdog of national interests. Media keeps a close eye on the functioning of the government. It informs the government about the plight of the people. Similarly, it also allows people to know the operation of the government.
Media reports factual news. Accurate and reliable information helps the government function properly. Consequently, media reports back to the masses the steps taken by the government. E.g. in 2012 during the dengue epidemic, media provided accurate information to the government on hourly and daily basis. The government concentrated her efforts on areas hit hardest. Similarly, media became mouthpiece of government in propagating preventive measures from dengue virus.
A free and independent media can further help good governance by playing an active role in the electoral process. By highlighting both the achievement and failures of elected representatives, media allows people to take informed decisions while selecting their future representative in elections. With reporting objectively on irregularities in the electoral process, media shows the true face of certain politicians. Media’s projection of politicians in their true colors aids immensely in removing nefarious segments from electoral process. Media believes that vote is a dialogue between government and people. Hence it acts as a legitimate relationship builder between the people and their representatives.
Good governance through free media is more effective if media’s coverage is not only urban centered. Far outreach to the distant villages and dwellings enables voices from all corners to be heard. Reciprocally the voice of the government reaches to the farthest corner.
However, media’s role in good governance can only be possible with the independence of media per se. media as a lapdog of the state serves the interest of the few. It covers up government misdeeds and hides its atrocities from pubic knowledge. Media in collusion with the government may feed falsehood and induce indoctrination for its own ends, thus subverting good governance and transparency.
Media is prone to government censorship and intimidation. Journalists are routinely harassed and stopped from pursuing issues which might expose ill deeds of the government. Journalists killing are inimical to media’s functioning.
Pakistani media has grown with leaps and bounds during in the last decade. It has focused more on gaining independence than in fostering the professionalism required of it. Hence, Pakistani media today is not the one which would ideally be sought.
This is not to say that all hope is lost and that media is a new tyrant in its own. Media has served in promoting governance many a times. It has helped in liberating judiciary in 2007; it has thrown light on mega scandals ranging from irregularities in Hajj operations to NLC scams. It has performed a commendable role in elections of both 2008 and 2013. Its moment to moment coverage of the events leading to the elections, during the election process, and the follow up of elections has helped masses develop informed decision. It has raised awareness on prevention of dengue epidemic and on the need to conserve gas and electricity. Hence, media has done her fair share in promoting good governance in various ways.
Media and government nexus ought to collaborate closely to address societal issues and to raise awareness on issues on political relevance and economic prudence. An independent media can be a great asset to further nationalist agenda and policies for the benefit of the people.
Pithily, it can be argued that good governance is greatly contingent on the proper and ethical functioning of the free media. Good governance is the ability of the government to conduct public affairs properly and to spend public resources prudently. A free media can help navigate government policies towards achieving the goal of good governance. Media is the voice of the people. It is very important for the government to feel the pulse of public. It is only independent mass media which can serve this purpose. Hence media is indispensable for both democracy and good governance.