28 April 2022

A Beacon Free from the Billionaires’ Hold

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Megha Kaveri, first-year master student in Development Studies, and Project Manager and Co-editor-in-Chief of The Graduate Press, analyses the evolution of press freedom and its importance to student-led media.  

‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. This adage was an integral part of my life growing up, then as a journalist and now as a master’s student and team member of The Graduate Press.  

The perception around ‘press’ has undergone massive changes over the past couple of decades, if not more. From being regarded as a trusted source of information about the happenings of the world to being viewed as a propaganda tool, the transformation has been phenomenal. This is not to say that the news media was not used for propaganda in the past. It is just to underline that in recent times, the transgression has been more brazen and obvious. This shift has led to the world perceiving media freedom as a rare commodity and to herald journalists as heroes. 

Freedom of the press is a contentious topic. The debate on whether the media can be completely free without reasonable restrictions or if some authority should watch over what passes off as ‘news’ or ‘opinions’ is a never-ending one. Different countries have just as many takes on these debates, all with good reason. When the concept of press freedom is shrunk to the level of a university or a small community, where do we stand? 

Freedom of the press is crucial, more so when it concerns something as small as a student-run, independent publication. In an environment where the power indifferences are obvious and wide, it is imperative that students enjoy a safe space where they can dare to voice their opinions, with the usual caveats of keeping it decent and respectful.

As professionals who will be living in a world where media optics and image perception tools can make or break a career, it is important to know how to engage with decorum and disagree with dignity in public. This is an art and it comes only with practice. Student publications are the best platform to do that. The Graduate Press is operated on this principle at heart: that it can be the voice of any and every member of the Institute community.

In a community where more than 100 countries and, by extension, cultures are represented, it is only appropriate that all those voices get an equal platform to express their thoughts. These voices become more valuable when they engage with each other without the fear of retaliation by those in power. At the end of the day, speaking truth to those in power is the very duty of the press and in our case, every member of the Institute community is a journalist who has the right to do so.

The press is thus a user-sensitive tool that can be considered a platform where those in power can look for feedback. After all, great things are built using constructive criticism, multiple iterations and a willingness to introspect and right the wrongs.  

As we move forward, there is a high chance that world media will largely be an oligarchy and media freedom will end up being a giant question mark, thanks to Elon Musk.

In such times, student-led press initiatives have the privilege to remain free from the hands of billionaires and remain true to the core values of journalism, speaking truth to power.