Media plays an essential role in establishing democracy and fighting for the rights of people. He and serves as a source of information and educates the public on issues in their community, state, country, and world. While there is the mainstream media, there are also newspapers, websites, and television stations all dedicated to giving minorities and disenfranchise segments of the society a voice. The Eastern Post is one cents source of media based in Kolkata India. It is dedicated to providing English media that serves as a voice of Muslims and minority communities in the West Bengal region.
In 2011, the Census of India recorded over 24 million Muslims in the state of West Bengal, approximately 27% of the state’s population. This population makes them the largest minority in the state. The number of Muslims in West Bengal has been rising steadily as Bangladeshi Muslims move into Indian. However, long before the border between India and Bangladesh was drawn, Islam was practiced in much of the region. In fact, Bengali Muslims are the second-largest group of Muslims behind Arab Muslims.
Most of the citizens of Bangladesh are Bengali Muslims. This means that the practice Islam and speak in the Bengali language. Bengali Muslims also make up the largest minority in West Bengal and Assam. The Bengali Muslim population in West Bengal is the residual effect of the 1947 Partition of Bengal and India. As a minority group, they have often felt that their voice is not heard and that they are underrepresented in government policies and initiatives.
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The relationship between the media and the government of India has been tumultuous. While the media helped inform citizens during the time of British colonial rule, helping unite Indians as they fought against British imperialism, it was brought to a standstill during the time of Emergency in 1975 when there was press censorship. Since then the media has been gaining increasing influence amongst the masses and played a critical role in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
While much of the world has seen the transition of media from print to online happen at a slow pace, this transition has happened at breakneck speed in India. Much of the media was controlled by the government and was limited to newspapers and radio before the liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1990s. This has quickly transitioned to television and social media.
This rapid transition aligns with how quickly the country has adopted new technologies. Additionally, efforts to bring the Internet to the masses through companies like Reliance’s JIO have contributed to the surge in online and social media. In 2018, India and over 326 million social media users. This is anticipated to grow to nearly 448 million users by 2023. As more people get online and engage with social media regularly, having a platform where your voice is heard is especially important, especially for minority communities.
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The issue of having media available that is independent and is not being censored is especially important for minority communities. Without an independent press, minorities are apprehensive to share their experiences and voice their opinions and needs. An independent press has been an integral player in gaining public support for new ideas, even the idea of revolting or overthrowing existing rule.
What is acceptable under the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression has been debated since it was instituted in India. In fact, it is one that has come under fire in recent years as there have been attempts by Hindu Nationalists to dismiss any “anti-national” thoughts and opinions from national media.
The Indian media highlights issues that are facing its most interior populations. It is the media that has its finger on the pulse of the people and give some direction to Indian democracy. However, not all groups feel represented; especially as there has been a rise in Hindu Nationalist sentiments since BJP has come into power. This is why The Eastern Post was started – to give a voice (in English) to the Muslim minority in West Bengal.
For the last several years, the conflict between Hindus and Muslims has been on the rise in West Bengal. There have been violent clashes with several wounded and many injured. It is argued that this conflict is the result of political parties pitting religious sentiments against one another. As a minority group, The Eastern Post helps the Muslims of West Bengal understand the issues being experienced in the context of their faith and their community.
As the Internet reaches the masses print media is struggling to keep up. Once a weekly journal, The Eastern Post, was forced to transition to a monthly publication. It has come under scrutiny for being one-sided and highlighting and projecting only Muslim problems. However, the publication argued that all of its journalists must be impartial so that they simply shared the information, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. Reported news must be fact-checked so that only accurate information is shared with the public. The Eastern Post aims to bring about change in West Bengal by sharing unbiased information related to news and happenings that directly affect communities throughout the region.
This issue of providing news that is solely based on facts and is of growing importance as more and more people get their news from social media. The responsibility of factual reporting falls on the shoulders of journalists and publications they write for, given that human nature is to simply share content without fully reading, understanding, or double-checking that what they are sharing is true.
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The power of media is immense and serves as the fourth pillar of democracy. The media can insight a revolt against existing governments and can reshape public opinion. Therefore, those in the media are responsible for making sure the content that they publish is not inflammatory but rather focuses on the facts of the issues affecting their audience.