The Fourth Estate- An Oxymoron?

I intend to do a three series post on this subject. The text below (and even the future posts in this series) are excerpts from Nani Palkhivala’s book- ‘We, the Nation’- The Lost Decades.

“Never in world history has a single institution acquired such fantastic power in such a short span of time. Disraeli, foreseeing the growing importance of the press, called it the Fourth Estate. Freedom is to press what oxygen is to human being; it is the essential condition of its survival. To talk of a democracy without free press is a contradiction in terms. A free press is not an optional extra in democracy.”

“A free press is not an optional extra in democracy.”

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Winston Churchill as the British Prime Minister during wartime (1939–1945) had limitless power to stifle criticism. Britain was fighting, for bare survival, the bloodiest of wars. Churchill permitted the press to criticize him and journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge were allowed to indulge in scathing disparagement of the Prime Minister. When various friends and foreign powers pleaded to Churchill to prevent ill-informed criticism, he refused to stifle press freedom and pointed out that he wanted the world to know how a free nation could permit press freedom to flourish, even when the country’s very existence was in peril.

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