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Social media strengthens voice of the common man

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The winners of Asian Lite Pranam Awards presenting a memento to Speaker John Bercow

Rt. Hon. John Bercow, the Speaker of the British Parliament, said the social media provides a platform for the common man to share his opinion with politicians, elite columnists and writers said. The Speaker was delivering keynote speech on Democracy in the changed media landscape at Asian Lite’s 10th Anniversary Celebrations at Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan in London

British Speaker John Bercow addressing the Indian community in the shadow of a huge poster of Asian Lite cover page on the Queen. Mr Buddhdev Pandya MBE, Political Editor, Asian Lite, is also seen
British Speaker John Bercow addressing the Indian community in the shadow of a huge poster of Asian Lite cover page on the Queen. Mr Buddhdev Pandya MBE, Political Editor, Asian Lite, is also seen

Rt. Hon. John Bercow, the Speaker of the British Parliament, says media can play a crucial role in cementing democratic values in the social media driven communication landscape.

The speaker said the advantage of social media provides a platform for the common man to share his opinion with elite columnists and writers besides politicians.

“We now live in a world in which the media as historically understood has to co-exist with the phenomenon of social media,” the speaker said. “It is a relationship which is still in its early stages. It is anarchic as well as democratic. It is a whirlwind whose direction is unknown and uncertain. It is a truly revolutionary experience.

Kanwal Toor at CelebrASIANS 2016
Kanwal Toor at CelebrASIANS 2016

“The notion that social media might become rival forms of communication to the established media would have been surreal. Yet for a whole generation now social media has become the new media and has eclipsed old media.

“This is a development in human society that ranks alongside the printing press, the discovery of the Americas, the industrial use of steam, the coming of the railways or electrification. It is that huge. In truth, we are all struggling to determine how to deal with and what to do with it. The so-called ‘new media landscape’ is not merely the old landscape with some different features but is entirely novel. As communication is the spine of democracy the impact of this change could not be more seismic. Politicians, in particular, are not just running to stand still but running and still heading backwards.

The speaker said the social media has rocked the foundations of democracy.

“The architecture of democracy and the new media landscape has been shaken to its very foundations by the change that we are witnessing,” the speaker said. “The values by which both democracy and the media should operate remain essentially the familiar ones. The newspaper is very explicit in where it finds its ethical roots – in the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, CP Scott and Harold Evans – and is equally forthright about what it considers the core responsibility of the media to be, namely to safeguard the pillars of democracy.”

Lord Desai at CelebrASIANS 2016
Lord Desai at CelebrASIANS 2016

“It would be charitable to assert that all media outlets had such noble ambitions but they are the right aspirations. Democracy and the media need each other, even if that is not always obvious in the rough-and-tumble that might surround a particular story or the sense of balance or not in a certain headline or choice of story. Our society will be the stronger or not to the extent to which the mission statement that Asian Lite has so openly adopted is considered the norm across democratic institutions and the entire media.

The speaker said there won’t be a free society without a free press. Free speech is cornerstone for democracy. One cannot have a free society without a free press and free speech. He also urged the journalists to be more cautious to ensure the credibility of news amid news floods.

“How do we ensure that democratic institutions respond in the right way to this transformed new media landscape?” the speaker asked. “How much of what we have done in the past has been rendered redundant? How do we prevent social media becoming a haven for extremism? How do we protect ethically-driven journalism in the age when the rush to be the first with news can be the enemy of accuracy in news? Who decides what is fair and unfair in a media world without borders? How do we prevent sensationalism becoming the currency of the realm and that sensationalism becoming a cynicism which is ultimately corrosive to the democratic institutions on which we rely? It is all too easy to forget that while one cannot have a free society without a free press and free speech it is equally true that one cannot have a free press and free speech without a free society.”

The speaker he took initiative to answer some of these challenges.

Speaker John Bercow along with Asian Lite Editor Azeez Anasudhin presenting the Pranam Memento to Zerbanoo Giffors

“The questions have an immediacy for the media itself which is riding the tiger of change on a daily basis but they are in the end no less demanding for democratic institutions, including the House of Commons,” the speaker said. “It was for this reason that I established a Digital Democracy Commission to address these issues for Parliament. It was created in late 2013, reported in 2015 and we are the midst of seeking to analyse and to implement its detailed recommendations. I would urge all of you intrigued by this area to read what it has said and participate in the debate upon its findings. The Commission, though, is a process not an event and is an opening attempt at a set of answers and by no means the final word.”

The speaker praised Asian Lite for its positive journalism and its efforts to bring back the missionary values of journalism.