The world is a paradox. One look at the absolute opposites that exist here and it makes you wonder if everyone is on the same planet. Apparently when it comes to media freedom we are not. A recent study by the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) shows that North Korea, Myanmar and Turkmenistan are the world’s most media muzzling countries.
Cut to Africa - which still brings images of famine, poverty and disease to mind. Here on this continent radio plays a big and important role in moving communities ahead. Particularly community Radio. Small radio stations have sprung up, providing the vast number of mostly illiterate people access to important information and entertainment at very low cost. Radio is in fact changing lives. With the fight against HIV/AIDS gaining momentum not only in Africa but here in India too, Community Radio has a major role to play.
So while one part of the planet uses the media to bring itself out of its current misery, another part of our great earth uses media to keep people in misery. From narcissistic dictators wanting to see their photograph on the front page of all the newspapers – everyday, to poor people talking about AIDS prevention on a radio chat show on the local radio, we have it all.
I bring up this topic mainly to show what low cost, grassroots type media can accomplish. Where the poorest of the poor have no access to other forms of information be it print or television, radio, especially community radio stations can go very far in doing good for the underprivileged masses. The Indian Government needs to take note of this. Granting of FM channel licenses to NGO’s will be a step in the right direction. More radio stations does not only mean only more entertainment, but for a balanced and civilized society there needs to be a mix of information, education and entertainment.
To some extent the government has done this with its television channels but a vast number of the population still has no access to it. In fact the people that need this information the most are being denied it. Radio offers a cheap low cost solution. With the advances in radio technology low power transmitters that are ideal for community stations are inexpensive to install and all the people need to access this information is cheap a radio receiver.We live in an age where information is power. In a democracy the power lies with the people so democratic governments are obliged to use all the tools necessary to keep their citizen’s informed. On the other hand because dictatorships take the power away from the people countries like Libya, Uzbekistan, Syria and Belarus muzzle their media to maintain an iron grip on their populations.The cycle continues...