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The Fourth Estate, its power & responsibility

Published : Wednesday, 19 February, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 751
Kawsar Uddin Mahmud

Is Fourth Estate going on following its directions? Is media or press following the policies proposed by Edmund Burke? These are the burning questions of the contemporary era! In general, the Fourth Estate or Fourth Power is used to describe 'press'.
In detail, "the term Fourth Estate implies that the press and news media both in the explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. However it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence". It is the core definition of the Fourth Estate. So, here we can say that Media is the combination of the explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues.

This term for the first time was used by Edmund Burke in 1787, in a parliamentary debate of the House of Commons of Great Britain, Thomas Carlyle wrote in his book, 'On Heroes and Hero Worship'. Burke said, "there are three estates in parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all". Thomas Carlyle also attributed to Edmund Burke about the other three estates. These three estates of the realm: 'The Lords Spiritual or the Clergy, the Lords Temporal or the Nobility and the Commoners.'

We have to concern with the core thinking of Edmund Burke. He said, "There sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all". He emphasized the contribution of The Press in a positive and decent way which is not followed by most of the presses and the media.
Let's talk about Social Media'. Should we say social media is the part of the fourth estate or not? Lots of prominent writers and journalists think that Social Media is not a fourth estate or not a part of it. But if we see the contribution and the influence of Social Media in this contemporary era we have to say that it is another major part of the fourth estate.

At present, Media is in the hand of the mass people. Open up your Facebook live option and upload a video of any matter wherever you are staying that will be a highlight in the next day on the front page of News Media. The president of the USA, Donald Trump or the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatullah Khomeini is updating all the actions and the reactions in Twitter, the next day it highlights on the front page of BBC, CNN or Al-Jazeera, etc. This is the power of social media that we can't neglect.

The core idea which is against the idea of Edmund Burke is that the mass people of the United States don't know about the term the Fourth Estate or Fourth Power but they know about the term 'The Fourth Branch of Government' which is always controlled by the government of USA and committed to following the directions of US government. Why this strategy does US government use?

Here the core policy is that, if we use the fourth estate that means press or news media has independence and have the option to be asked people what about Edmund Burke told and for this he named it 'the fourth estate'. But if we use it as the fourth branch of government that means press or media has limitation. It has limitation to talk about the interest, liberty as well as the rights of people, it has limitation to update all the news and finally, it has no way to follow another way against government.

Let's talk about the killing of 'Qassem Suleimani'. Every media highlighted the news in a major way. Through media most of the people of the world know about the name and the contribution of him. Why the international media did it? After the bombing, Donald Trump himself twitted on his own twitter account with great joy! By doing this, the US tried to make people understand the capacity of weapons and nuclear of it and make people feared. But, that was a bad policy of Trump Government which has been already mocked by the policymakers.

After a few days, one of the chief commanders of CIA, Michael D'Andrea had been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. There were nearly fifteen members of CIA and high officials of U.S government who had been killed but the US tried heart and soul to hide it but Russian news agency and CNN covered it--even not using highly sophisticated way but as simple as they could. CIA denied this news but some high officials of the US told that 'they were killed for the bad situation of weather'. Pentagon didn't clear any statement even not Washington.

We are also concern with the current worst epidemic coronavirus. China wholeheartedly tried to say that the deaths of people are not more than 1,600 till now but some International news covered that the number of deaths is more than 24,000. So, a question can be raised here that, what is the role of media and newspapers?

From the realist perspective, international media are always controlled by powerful countries like the US, France, UK, Russia and China. If they want any news that can be covered, only then it can be circulated. It can be easily understood that the US refers to media as the 'fourth branch of the government', not 'fourth estate'. If we say media as 'fourth estate' it should follow the term of Edmund Burke. And the media policy is going on and on, although they try to be liberal they can't be at all.

Media should be responsible to people. Otherwise people will turn their faith in it. In this era, it is not possible to be absolutely free but they (media) should think at least about the rights of people to get authentic news not fake or concocted information.

The writer is student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka

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