Advances in Journalism and Communication
2013. Vol.1, No.2, 13-17
Published Online June 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 13
Political Movements and Changing Media Environments
Ankesrapu Nagraj
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism,Tezpur University, Assam, India
Email: nagrajhcu@ h,
Received March 19th, 2013; revised Apr il 1 9th, 2013; accepted May 3rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ankesrapu Nagraj. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
In the last few decades the media has played a vital role in liberating colonized nations and those under
autocratic forms of governance. The oppression of the state leads to the creation of alternative forms of
representation; the literature that comes out of the oppressive regimes not only highlights the facts that
exist in society but also encourages the people to participate in the resistance. The printing press of
Gutenberg was put into use by the revolutionaries in the French revolution, giving a new role and direc-
tion to the media. The various political and social movements that happened after the Indian independ-
ence in various parts of the country have indeed helped the growth of media, specially the non-Hindi and
English print media during the emergency period. Today the political and social movements are once
again increasingly vulnerable to the political, religious and corporate groups. People continue to resist the
oppression of the state and express their concerns from alternative sites of media, especially with the New
Media. However, we are again entering a phase in human history when knowledge and information are
in the process of being monopolized.
Keywords: Non-Hindi; Non-English; New Media; Public Sphere; Media Ecology; Media Environments
Political movements are inevitably shaped by media. Today
societies depend on media more than ever before; especially,
the impact of political or social movements wrests on the mo-
mentum that media is able to generate locally and globally. The
success of the movement is measured by public participation
and the wide publicity it acquires through media. The symbiotic
relation that exists between the political movements and media
is not new; the two have been evolving and growing stronger
with mutual support. The political movements with their dis-
tinctive ideologies have changed the notion of media in the
course of history (printing press to Facebook, from Johannes
Gutenberg to Mark Zuckerberg). In the last few decades par-
ticularly, the media has played a major role in liberating nations
that were once colonized and also those reeling under autocratic
regimes. The oppression by the state has always given birth to
new and ingenious forms of response by the people; for in-
stance, the literature of the oppressed not only highlights the
facts of society, but also encourages people to participate and
resist the domination. Literature can also enlighten the common
public on various issues thereby generating mass awareness and
finally leading to mass movements. Literature that is critical
about the state and the functioning of its institutions is sup-
pressed around the world and being branded as anti-national.
It is said that a nation’s tolerance can be measured by ana-
lyzing the freedom of its press. But with the emergence of new
technologies, especially in media, governments are finding it
increasingly hard to exercise control over it. The boom in in-
formation technology has opened the floodgates in so far as the
immediate ac ce ss to a wide ra nge of au die nce is conce rne d. T he
option for the publication of literature is wide open: books, for
instance, need not be printed any more to strike an immediate
chord with a large number of people; it is enough to release the
information on the web. However, this openness of media has
come under the scrutiny of the stringent laws adopted by some
countries. Once the information is in the public domain neither
the government, nor the public can afford to ignore the issues.
Many political and social movements were largely unknown to
the rest of the world a few decades back; with the increased
connectivity among the world citizens aided by the latest com-
munication tools, no event goes unnoticed.
In this environment of ever growing connectivity among the
world citizens, political and social movements no longer die a
silent death. It is said that the French revolution sustained itself
by relying on the explosive growth of media (press), a phe-
nomenon that is visible even today in many parts of the world.
The printing press of Gutenberg was put to use by the revolu-
tionaries during the French revolution, giving a new role and
direction to the media. This idea of using the printing press has
not stopped with one nation; indeed it was an inspiration for
many such revolutions that followed in Europe. Education and
media that were once exclusive to the elites, were put to the
service of the masses by the French revolution. This use of
media and its support was visible in all the revolutions and
social movements that soon followed the French revolution.
The media, especially the print and the pictorial representations
of events (Picture Journalism), including the satirical carica-
tures, gained popularity during these movements and thereafter.
Today things have changed; print is gradually being replaced
by the New Media (Internet) that is put to use by the revolu-
tionaries around the world. The New Media played a major role
in the Arab spring, where people used texting and audio/video
clips to garner massive support to overthrow an autocratic gov-
ernment in the Middle East.
India first witnessed the power of print media on January 29,
1780 when James Augustus Hickey published the newspaper
called Bengal Gazette. Hickey was sent to jail for questioning
and defying the East India Company’s role, and the atrocities
committed by enacting draconian laws. Hickey’s act motivated
many Indians to question the hegemony of British rule.
In this period of over two centuries of the existence of the
print media, the nation engaged with new ideas that helped in
the spread of the ideals of a democratic society. Raja Ram
Mohan Roy highlighted the plight of women and other issues in
his magazines like Brahmonical and Sambad Kaumudi. In the
twentieth century, Gandhi put forward his ideas through the
Young India and Harijan. Social thinkers and freedom fighters
carried forward the Indian struggle for independence and the
socialist ideas and social movements played a vital role in the
emergence of the nation. In the post-colonial phase, the media
was put to use for purposes of nation building exercise. There is
no doubt that the changes brought about by the media have
unified the Indian nation, making it the largest democracy in
the world.
Importance of Oral Communication
Oral communication in India has always been very powerful.
Of course, the hold and power of oral communication was on
full display during the freedom struggle and many other
movements that followed. Although the literacy rate was very
low during the freedom struggle, the important role played by
the media in the circulation of information by what now seems
to be the “limited” impact of print media among the masses is
notable. For those who were illiterate, the messages and infor-
mation sent by couriers was read loud by the few educated
people. The common masses were made aware and educated
about their basic rights and the importance of participation in
the freedom struggle. The oral communication educated and
helped the masses to actively participate in these movements;
people were made to be fully aware of the issues there were
fighting for.
Even today the literacy rates in India are low; one may still
wonder how the social and political movements continue to hog
the limelight in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya
Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Especially the tribal
movements in the mineral rich states have grown in strength;
the movements for land rights and forest rights in many parts of
central India have been successful. If one examines the illiter-
acy rate (officially the average figures stands at 35% in these
states; however, unofficial sources claim that the figure is much
higher (2011 Census). Thus, even today oral communication is
one of the most preferred means of communicating ideas and
information. Verbal communication has always been more
influential than non-verbal communication, especially in multi-
lingual states like India. Apart from illiteracy, many tribal
movements are forced to rely on oral communication as some
of these linguistic communities do not have any written form of
Political and social movements help in the growth of the me-
dia (including the oral forms of media) to expand and also to
improve their popularity and circulation among the people. In
the Indian context, such movements have given birth to the
regional language newspapers (non-Hindi and non-English) and
at the same time has played a vital role in the social and politi-
cal transformation. The non-Hindi and English print media saw
a surge during the emergency period in India. It has been ar-
gued by Robin Jeffrey (1987) that:
“Involvement in great social and political campaigns, or
other exciting events, during the freedom struggle fuelled
newspaper growth and circulation and built up the credibility
and image of particular publications. Literacy, basic communi-
cations and adequate technology are essential to the develop-
ment of a daily newspaper culture. But momentous events pro-
vide the link between these developments and politics—the link
that seems to send circulations shooting upwards” (Jeffrey,
1987: p. 608).
The Jai Prakash Narayan movement, the Mandal commission,
Ayodhya movement, Assam agitation in Assam, the Telangana
movement, and the latest Anna Hazara anti-corruption move-
ments have indeed helped in the tremendous growth of media,
(Print, Radio, Television, New media). The movements not
only helped the verbal communication but also revived the
non-verbal communication (Traditional media); movements
like Telangana have helped to revive (Janapada kala, Oggu
kadha, Burra katha) the traditional way of narrating stories
through songs and dances. These forms have become prominent
and pose an alternative to the mainstream media. The various
media formats used by the people involved in the movements
reflect the aspirations and angst of people. The growth of media
has helped in assertion of community identities and cultures;
this trend is particularly visible in the regional media. The
dominance and monopoly of Hindi and English daily newspa-
pers over the media is being challenged locally. There are many
reasons for growth in popularity of the non-Hindi and non-
English dallies. Firstly, it has to do with the growth of literacy
and easy understanding of the regional language that people
speak (mother tongue). Secondly, it is related to a sense of
pride in one’s own language. Thirdly, there has been an accusa-
tion of biased reporting by some national papers and also mis-
interpreting the facts and even of completely ignoring the issues.
As literacy rates started increasing, people have become more
interested in local news; the regional language newspapers
started to fulfill the needs of the people by introducing the re-
gional and local editions.
The growth of the regional media has ensured a wider reach
for the media in general considering the vastness of the country
and its multilingual set up. The regional media has helped to fill
up the gaps in building what seems to be an elusive pan Indian
view for the media. People get to look at the different versions
of the same story from different perspectives. Talking about the
institute theory, Habermas refers to refudalization; he traces its
origin to the 19th century and this refudalization, according to
him, has transformed the public sphere:
“The transformation involved private interests assuming di-
rect political functions, as powerful corporations came to con-
trol and manipulate the media and state. On the other hand, the
state began to play a more fundamental role in the private realm
and everyday life, thus eroding the difference between state and
civil society, between the public and private sphere”.
What we see today is the nexus between the politician, busi-
nessmen and the media, that has crept into the editor’s room
long back, and was clearly visible in India from the period of
early-1990, when India’s most trusted newspapers deviated
from their goal for revenue generation through advertisements
(Sumir, 2010: p. 27) Today we can see the nexus operating
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
more overtly; some media houses are inclined in favor of select
political parties. The changed trend is clearly visible in the
news reporting and articles carried out by the media houses.
The common men has no option left, but speak out openly
through other forms of media, and choose alternative forms to
give expression to their sense of being marginalized in the
so-called “mainstream” media. The Indian media is today
caught in the currents and cross-currents of “legitimate infor-
mation”. Who speaks for whom and how representative that
media is to convey the legitimate aspirations for people have
become questions of immediate relevance. The dynamics of
media in India is thus intricately and intimately linked to issues
of identity politics.
Even the alternative media chosen by people and groups are
been closely watched by the political and government agencies.
The expressive behavior of communities is manifested in the
form of songs, literature, art, and films. This expressive behav-
ior as projected in the media have helped in putting forward
people’s ideas, ideologies and arguments on various issues
concerning the day-to-day lives of people. Governments across
the world ban groups and individuals who speak their mind and
express their opinion on issues and events that have an immedi-
ate relevance to their lived experiences. We are witnessing an
increasing trend in suppressing the freedom of expression by
political, religious and other groups including the corporate
houses. In the wake of suppressing the movements people have
taken the advantage of social media, which is increasingly be-
coming popular among the citizens who have found in it an
alternative media to express their opinions on various issues.
Citizen’s Participation and News from the
Common Man
Today the information comes in from multiple directions; we
are now called information overloaded societies or Infosocieties.
The information in the form of texts, images, music and video
is not limited and confined to one particular region, but for
everyone around the world. The citizens in the infosocieties
have the option of rejecting the information but not ignoring it.
The information overloaded societies is an offshoot of global-
ization. Marshal McLuhan had predicted that the introduction
of communication tools would turn the world into a global vil-
lage (McLuhan, 1964).
Communication tools are playing a vital role in carrying the
information from one-to-one and one-to many, as and when the
events happen around the world. Professional reporters of news
agencies, who are in the forefront of reporting the latest news,
are today increasingly replaced by non-professionals and indi-
viduals. Majority of the news and events are reported by pro-
fessionally untrained citizens, who are playing a vital role in
placing the issues and events before the global community. In
one of the essays written by Roy Greenslade (2010) titled “This
Way To The Egress in the Outlookindia Magazine, he foresees
the end of top-down journalism, that tell people what they
should read, see, and hear to be replaced by bottom-up journal-
ism. In this new form of journalism, the audience plays an ac-
tive role in news-gathering. The monopoly over information by
news agencies is being seriously challenged by the new com-
munication tools, especially with the coming of the new media
platforms. I feel that this changing trend in dissemination of
information has a powerful impact on society. The New Media
has given scope to the rise of citizen’s journalism wherein the
individuals are able to put forward their own stories, which are
otherwise ignored and go unnoticed. With the new technologies
available for citizens, there is no easy suppression of informa-
tion. Earlier the editor of a publishing house or the channel
head had the choice of suppressing a report or issue, (Sir Evans,
2010: p. 156) and not publishing it in newspapers, tabloids, and
magazines or television channels. Today the reporters as well as
the ordinary citizens have the choice to publish the same infor-
mation for the rest of the world to read/watch with the help of
New Media (Internet) and draw the attention of the general
public to an issue or event. We are witnessing an increase in
reporting of information and many issues and events are posted
on various websites or personal blogs, including on social net-
working sites like Facebook and Twitter. People have the
choice of posting the information that may help millions of
others; numerous accounts of anomalies are exposed by indi-
Talking about the tools Marshal McLuhan said, “We shape
our tools and afterwards our tools shape us” (Mcluhan, 1964).
The various media tools that the people are using have become
part of our life; these tools are put to use for magnifying the
issues relating to society. The public sphere (Habermas) is more
visible and effective in the virtual environments than in public
places. People are connected to each other by communication
tools, and are in continuous engagement with information; in-
formation is circulated and shared within the community, and
some times, also with the global community. One post/message
by an individual on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or any other
platform can bring about a radical change and unite millions for
a cause.
One Billion Rising
The call given by the women’s organization for the one bil-
lion rising has indeed helped millions of people to come out of
their homes. This is particularly notable in the subcontinent
where women in large numbers protested against the atrocities
on women around the world. The website had millions of hits
and especially, many women have joined the organization.
When one opens the website it reads
“One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in
her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One
billion women dancing is a revolution” (One-billion-rising).
This message was endorsed by many noted celebrities, in-
cluding Anoushka Shankar daughter of legendary singer Ravi
Shankar, playing a vital role in creating awareness through their
blogs and tweets on various social networking sites. In India
people have received the messages and reciprocated with action
on streets culminating in peaceful protests against the brutal
gang rape of a medical student in Delhi.
The Gano Jagaran Mancha (Bangladesh)
Many social and non-governmental organizations, including
the social and political movements across the world are in-
creasingly using the New Media to connect and make people
aware of many events and issues especially using media tools
like Facebook, Twitter, Orkut. The Gano Jagaran Mancha also
known as the “Mass awakening platform” that started in Bang-
ladesh turned out to be the largest revolution till date in Bang-
ladesh; in this, the people demanded the death sentence for the
war criminals of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation. The informa-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 15
tion was shared through the social networking sites like it hap-
pened in the spring revolution (Arab spring). Thousands occu-
pied the center of Shahbagh Square (Bangladesh); the partici-
pation of the people from all walks of life has indeed helped to
give momentum to the ongoing movement.
Many atrocities that are committed on various social and po-
litical leaders are always suppressed by the state: these are also
ignored by the mainstream media, as many of the publication
houses are associated with political parties and governments.
But with the latest media technologies (smart phones) in the
hands of the common man, people are able to interact and up-
date and post what is happening at ground zero, including im-
ages. The images that are released into the media environment
are not confined to one region but are carried and circulated
throughout the world; the reactions and repercussions depend
upon the content of the information released. The Arab spring
in the Middle East was successful because of many such media
tools and technologies in the hands of the common citizens.
Freedom of Speech
The increasing control over the media by corporate and po-
litical organizations is clearly visible. The passive consumption
of news is now challenged with the rise of the media tools,
specially the Internet, where people are slowly but steadily
becoming active participants and consumers. Political parties
and governments are keenly watching the new developments
happening through New Media. There is a continuous and visi-
ble/invisible war that transpires within the media environments,
as one set of media tools are controlled by corporations and
governments, the other by the individuals themselves, where
things are accessed and opinions are aired and shared freely. In
the last few years the balance is slowly but steadily tilting in the
favor of individuals and New Media (Internet). Slow and steady
but radical changes are taking place with the use of New Media
platforms that are giving a voice to the voiceless.
The freedom that we are enjoying today by sharing the in-
formation about issues and events is controlled by big organiza-
tions. Possibility is that, this freedom may come to an end very
soon and people have to search for or generate other alterna-
tives; the acquisition of free service providing companies by
Multi-National Companies is on the rise. The free platforms
that are been used by millions of citizens across the world for
airing their views and opinions are being sold to these media
corporate giants. The future would be more challenging as we
are again faced with the same situation that we were faced with
at one point of time in history when knowledge and information
was in the hands of a select few. Today, monopoly over
knowledge and information once again threatens to be limited
to few who control and dictate.
Today the growth and consumption of media is most visible
in the internet environment; the public sphere is more vocal and
active in this environment, according to Douglas Kellner (2013)
who arguing in Habermas, the Public Sphere, and Democracy:
A Critical Intervention says.
The public sphere keeps on changing or shifts with the rise of
new social movements, technologies and with the creation of
new public spaces.
In the last few centuries we have seen this happening; tech-
nologies have been put to use to achieve larger goals. Media
tools have transformed the society more than any other tool, by
disseminating the knowledge required, with the introduction of
the Guttenberg press, Telephone, Radio, Cinema, Television,
Mobile phones and now the computers (internet). These have
all played a vital role in transforming the societies with the
information that is freely accessed and shared at the level of
local and global communities. Each new tool that has been
added to society has created a deep impact. People participating
in social and political movements on the streets to the silent
voting that shapes the global opinion on the Internet have cre-
ated new public spheres and promises a lot for the future. The
internet has thus given new directions and changed the func-
tioning of social and political movements around the world.
Media environments are constantly undergoing change to take
new forms and shapes in the fast growing media landscape.
Vinton Cerf (2013), Google’s chief internet evangelist and
father of the Internet worries about the internet freedom, fore-
sees a threat from governments in various countries and also
from major private organizations. This is particularly true in the
case of countries where the dictatorial regimes are functional.
In the past few decades the internet has given freedom and
liberty to many citizens around the world. The media and
communication tools have empowered and have given more
power to the individuals than organizations. The communica-
tion tools have made a lot of differences to the knowledge pro-
duction and sharing among the universal community. With an
increasing connectivity among the universal citizens, the pain
and joy is shared not just by few individuals or groups, but by
majority of the people around the world. Internet provides and
acts as one of the single largest platform in helping and sup-
porting individuals, groups, organizations and nations. With the
integration of various media tools the mass political and social
movements are thus growing in strength around the world. It is
not just the social and political movements but also the move-
ments for greater cause of humanity, many organizations
around the world are being helped by millions of people who
lend their support either in cash or kind. We see this happening
with most of the humanitarian and other social organizations;
we have also seen how media tools can be used for collaborat-
ing with each other and exchanging information through vari-
ous media platforms for the execution of the works, and we are
also aware of how different media environments are coordinat-
ing with each other in the digital world and creating a new
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Jeffrey, R. (1987). Culture of daily newspapers in India: How it’s
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McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man.
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Sir Evans, H. (2010). Press, the neuralgic nerve’ outlook magazine (1
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Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 17
Sumir, L. (2010). Why I quit the media’ outlook magazine (1 Novem-
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Vinton, C. (2013). Father of the internet: Why we must fight for its