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Media and good governance: An essential relationship

The origin of the theory of “Good Governance” can be traced back to the Ancient Greek period if we catch the essence of Aristotle’s fundamental statement “the state came into existence for the sake of mere life, but continued for the sake of good life”. If we look into the term “Good Life” we can trace out the components of good governance which we converse in modern times. The political philosophers like Hobbs, Lock and Rousseau also stated the stipulation of the good governance through their social contract theories of the origin of the state. As said by John Lock, governments shall govern as long as they protect the interest of the people or the trust of the people has placed in them. This is how the concept of democracy rule by consent and good governance came into existence in the theory and practice of the governments.
The World Bank defines: “Good Governance is epitomized by predictable and enlightened policy making; a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos; an executive arm of government accountable for its actions; a strong civil society participating in public affairs; and all behaving under the rule of law”.
Media plays an influential role in shaping a strong and healthy democracy and ensuring good governs. As a vital source of information media has been functioning the role of the heart of democratic society and good governance. The dynamic and vigilant participation of media is crucial in a democratic society. It is an important presumption that the media speaks for the people, represents the interests of the society, and serves as a check on the government. This process holds government accountable and transparent and throughout this function the media helps to ensure good governance. In contributory the democratization and good governance the media has three key functions. The very fundamental function of media is to act as a watchdog over the powerful, promoting accountability, transparency and public scrutiny. The second important responsibility of media is to function as a civic forum for the political debate, facilitating informed electoral choices and actions; and the third job is to act as an agenda-setter for policy makers, strengthening government responsiveness for instance to social problems and to exclusion.
Democracy obliges that people should have the right to know all the activities of the government, particularly the decision of the government that affects their life, liberty and property. Hence, media also has a critical role to mediate between the state and citizens through the debates and discussions about the major issues of the day and informing people about the stand of their leaders on such issues. In ‘watchdog’ role, the media can play a significant role to promote transparency, accountability, and public scrutiny of decision-makers, by highlighting policy failures, maladministration by public officials, corruption in the judiciary, and scandals in the corporate sector.
Investigative journalism can open the government’s secret records to external scrutiny and critical evaluation, and holds authorities answerable for their actions. The watchdog function of media is essential in a democratic society where people must know what their governments are doing. The primary democratic function of the media is to act as a check on the state. The media should observe the activities of the state, and fearlessly expose exploitations of official authority as good governance requires the principles of transparency, accountability and participation. Democracy is the government which rests on the active consent of the governed, as an important source of public information media could be expected to be a vehicle to encourage the promotion of these principles of good governance.
Information is very necessary for people to formulate decisions about their participation in the state and the civil society. Sufficient information helps citizens to decide wisely and take the right course of action favorable to them. Media thus helps people to know what is happening around the society. In Pakistan, media is not only been playing a key role in protection of rights by making people aware of their rights but also making people to observant on political developments in the society and helping to stimulate debate drawing attention to all social evils including the institutional failures, corruption, inefficiency and illegal activities.
The media and the public are not only players as the society moves towards good governance reform, but also it takes a good quality rejoinder from the government as well. In accordance with the principle of transparency and good governance, the government should provide to the media open access of information on public policy matters.  Principally the media should be equipped with the indispensable investigative power to bring out the truth to the public and fulfill their function in promoting good governance. Access to information, freedom of the press, and an umbrella legal instrument can together support the processes of democracy and good governance in Pakistan.
 


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