Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy, and rightfully so. Job of the media is to hold the government accountable. It is to keep the people of the country knowledgeable. It is to report facts and truths. It is to uphold the values and integrity of our democracy. And in the last few years, our beloved media has spectacularly failed to do any of the jobs it should have done.
Gone are the days when the press defied oppression and took a stand against Indira Gandhi’s draconian Emergency. Gone are the days we actually saw a journalist asking important questions to people in power and following up on those questions. We all remember when Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, left an ongoing interview by Karan Thapar when asked about his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Now what we have is a PR agency, a PR agency which pulls out all stops to push government propaganda. An agency which has long left the job of reporting facts and truth, but rather promotes bigotry, Islamophobia and fascism in the guise of patriotism. Tune in to news channels during primetime and witness it for yourself. Anchors, instead of asking questions to spokesperson of the government, rise to clamour against guests who question them, and by doing so, they’re killing our democratic instinct. This happens due to the association of news channels with political parties. Republic TV is founded by Arnab Goswami in partnership with a BJP member of parliament. Its implications can be seen on his show as a place which is meant for debates and discussions gets drowned in Hindu-Muslim, National-Anti-national debates. Let the farmers commit suicide, let the mob lynchings be turned into another Hindu-Muslim debate, let the real issues take a backseat, all to soothe the egos of the officials in power.
There’s also been a rise of competition amongst news channels lately.
Competition is good, it helps organisations deliver their best, but that is not what’s happening in this case. In the bid to be the number one news network, quality content is lost. Republic TV and Times Now fit this description aptly. Both their ads try to degrade the other, both claim to be the number one English news channel, and both fail to get out of the boundaries of Hindu-Muslim, Ram-Mandir “issues” which has become the new normal.
Everyday, we see news channels stooping to new lows, and it doesn’t even surprise us any longer. From panellists getting into physical fights and anchors branding anyone who doesn’t agree with them as Anti-Nationals, to openly lying on national television in primetime shows. Sudhir Chaudhary claimed after demonetisation that the new 2000 Rs. Notes contain a nano-chip which will help the government track notes. This claim was found to be a lie circulated on the popular messaging application, WhatsApp. One of the most viewed journalists of the country lied in such a blatant way and didn’t even consider it important to retract his statement, shows his irresponsibility.
And it’s not just the T.V. media, but the print media as well, which has a fair share of blame to shoulder. The cobrapost sting on various newspapers showed the editors were ready to accept money in place of promoting right-wing Hinduism.
The loosening threads of trust need to be woven tightly again for an India which can fearlessly dissent from the norm. Any association between a political party and a news outlet should be banned as it becomes a source of propaganda. Any organisation flouting this rule shouldn’t be allowed to air on T.V. or be printed. An independent body, like the judiciary and election commission, should be setup which can check for hate speech and lies promoted by an organisation. Sweeping changes and reforms have to be made for the resurrection of Indian media so that it’s able to earn the trust it once had. It’s high time that necessary steps are taken to not let our fourth pillar completely collapse- endangering our great democracy.
by Akshat Kashyap