“Even if my life had no other significance, I am satisfied with having discovered the demoralizing existence of the daily press,” says Kierkegaard indicating the greatest impediment of the modern democratic era. The present ranking of India at 142 in the World Press Freedom Index, augurs the deficits the country faces.
Pre Covid times
The media houses, especially the electronic media have virtually surrendered every form of reason by applying strategies of evasion, deflection, denial and are neurotically obsessed with bashing the opposition, which itself is irrelevant in the time being. The discourse on nationalism is an eternal recurrence to change the narrative and has worked immensely in the favor of the nationalists.
A large number of the media houses are attuned in bonds of garland with the ruling regime, and the remaining ones with their obstinate opinions are in an illusion of being the “Sole Savior of the Constitution” (they call themselves “liberals”).
The modern version of media warfare has turned journalism into “junglism”. The content of the current media is irrelevant to the very core, the scandal-mongering was witnessed by the whole nation in the Sushant Rajput Suicide case. The vulturism by media houses in the SSR case had been condemned by various high courts due to which eventually some media houses had to apologize. Most people have questioned the media houses, but have ignored the other dimension in which we can’t see a holistic degradation of the masses. The case sensationalized our homes because we were also at fault for welcoming it.
Voices of protest are labeled the “tukde tukde gang”, sedition charges are slapped against the dissent holders (although dissent can be delusional at times) coupled with the obvious tag of “Anti-Nationals”. Concerns of national importance i.e the economy are hardly talked about. Though to save their land, these media houses take public reaction on air when petroleum and gas prices rise.
The media whose role is to cross-examine the facts presented by the state are not even concerned about it. Rather only the opposition is being questioned regularly on their respective stands at various platforms. Riding on the bus of business, today’s anchors are no more opinion enablers but opinion makers. The opposition gets space but is slammed very handsomely by the scripted anchors. In the war between “designer partaker” and “godi media”, the ultimate sufferer is electoral.
The credibility of the media lies in the legitimization of facts, and apparently to identify the fact as a fact for the viewers is like finding a needle in a haystack. But not because there is an absence of it, on the contrary, the unbridled content, and the sentiment unleashed more intricately has spiced up the slice of information, thereby making it a mountain of a molehill.
Masses form their opinions from electronic media, acting as one of the primary sources, and if that is something in question, the whole structure of democracy falls at its head.
In Covid times
The Electronic media is equally responsible, along with the government for the mayhem of events the country witnessed in the second wave. In the gospel words of the Prime Minister delivered in Davos in January, we declared victory and it was said that India’s success in combating Covid will help the entire world. What followed in the subsequent months will not fade away from our memories in years to come. Rather than questioning such immature statements, the media from then started lauding the vaccination drive and tossed up the narrative of “vaccine guru”.
Even without a sufficient amount of vaccine, we started “Tika Mahotsav”. The supreme court in its order termed the centre’s vaccination policy as “Arbitrary and irrational”. In the headline hunting public relational exercise, after receiving thrashing at the hands of the apex court, we were told in the address to the nation, that vaccination would be free in a manner as if the executive was doing an unasked favour for the masses. Did we ever constructively discuss the policy of vaccination on public platforms? Why was the media abstaining from its duties?
The investigations led by some major newspapers daily like that of Dainik Bhaskar and Sandesh respectively in May unearthed the underreporting of deaths at a large level. Could the electronic media have not done what the print did so early?
No administration in the world could have fought the virus and arranged for a large number of oxygen beds, but could we have not done more to save lives? The first order was placed in January when nations like the United States and the United kingdom placed their orders in August. We were late by quite a distance. Did we see the large section of electronic media holding the government responsible for it?
Exaggerating the response of the government in handing Covid, and covering up the blunders of the regime is what the media is accustomed to.
The relevant question which is to be asked is if the media houses provide us with the facts then who will fund them for breaking daily news? From the perspective of the media, there lies the reward for not showcasing the facts properly, and the effort of the media houses around the world to “alter the fact” is the old universal, reviving its root to be called something new.
Professional journalists become less professional when the news media becomes a business, and they are pressed by the owners of the business to produce what sells- to attract eyeballs and increase TRPs and advertising revenue. They lose sight of the purpose of professional journalism, which requires the diligent uncovering of truth. Since most of the media house owners owe a debt to corporate houses, and political parties, that very fact opens the gate of skepticism.
In the book, “Good work- When excellence and ethics meet”, Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and William Damon, write:
“We have no fundamental quarrel with the operations of the market in economic spheres; we recognize the positive role that markets can play. But not all spheres of life are best to run on a market model”. Journalism is not ought to work on a market model.
The channels have the right to subscribe to an ideology, if we are exercising the freedom of expression, even they have the right to do so. The inclination to an ideology by the News agency is not new to the world, up till now the left narrative has dominated the world news. Though their neutrality seems facade, at least their media ethics and their way of conduct remain sophisticated unlike ours.
Either the stand of media houses is in awe of only appreciation, (oh they sometimes play safe and criticize the government but that is just an extension of their hypocrisy so that they can pretend that they are the fair contenders in the game) or there is a total absence of appreciation in some media houses indicating that country is moving in the direction of hibernation.
What we have seen in the past days, the trembling situation of the nation could have been avoided, if we were courageous enough to pull down the government for its PR exercises. The notion of “Money first, no compromise” should be dropped in certain circumstances, especially those which can entangle the whole nation. Now, the ones responsible for unfurling the truth are the ones galloping it.
When faith matters more than fact, it is the responsibility of the media to create a learning environment that encourages critical inquiry and the ethics of honesty to overcome the narrative of their “Desh bhakti”.The real nationalists shall have the courage to hold the assumed nationalists accountable.
Disclaimer – The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone. These do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions, or strategies of Antahkaran by National Institute of Mass Communication and Journalism or the National Institute of Mass Communication and Journalism and other associates.