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Youth Wish List for the Indian Media

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Sameera Ahmed:

Media in general terms means different forms of communication. Without communication, a whole nation could be crippled.

You switch on the T.V. The anchor reports a breaking news that Muslim groups have torched the Sabarmati Express in Gujarat. That instigated a riot that resulted in one of the most devastating Hindu —Muslim fights in the history of mankind. But what if the story was not true. What if the anchor had delivered the news as a result of unconfirmed reports?

I have a question. Who owns the media in India?

Almost everything that we see on T.V, read in the newspapers or the magazines is controlled by a commercial aspect. What they feel, formulates into public opinion. It makes me want to think twice before believing what I see.

I went around asking people what their expectations out of the media were; what they wanted from the media. Here I have composed our youth’s wish list for the media. So Santa if you are listening; maybe you could give us a little help out here.

* RESPONSIBILITY– it’s the number one feature everyone expects the media to exude. When we flip to the news channel; we want the news and not the anchor’s version of what she/he thinks is right. We want to know what has happened rather than who the media think is responsible for it. Sensationalism is the key to raising their TRPs but the way our reporters report; any weak-hearted man would suffer a stroke right in the middle of her breaking story.

* The media has helped the common man in the right royal delivery of justice. In Ruchika’s case for example, the media played the role of an indicter and put immense pressure on the authorities to put Rathore behind bars. But the same media has destroyed the Aarushi family. Right from the father, everyone with a liability has been blamed without even a shred of authentication. If there is a social issue worth reporting; it must be done with a little consideration for all the people involved.

* It’s the 21st century and we have come a long way from our ape-like ancestors. Technology knows no bounds. Despite this, there lay huge gaps in our systems. Till 36 hours after the tsunami struck the South Asian community, there was a huge breach in the communication of information. People stranded at the coasts didn’t know what had happened. We want to link those gaps.

* Some times a single photo can speak a thousand words. We have awe-inspiring documentaries and blogs tucked away in the realms of the internet that can be easily made more accessible to the public. Quality, originality and class are highly lacking from the Indian sector. We need to keep up with the standards set up by the international media.

* Give us a little hope for the future. Open newspapers and what we see is bomb blasts, earthquakes, murders and accidents. Yes, its human psychology that violence holds our attention for longer. But even if we are in the middle of World War III, a little reporting on positive news will help. In one South-east Asian country, a day after a devastating earthquake shook the country killing hundreds, newspapers deliberately left out the gory details of the horrific destruction to the inner pages. They published only constructive issues on their front page.

* SPORTS media has always had one long standing debate – the spotlight on cricket. True that India‘s favorite game is cricket and our hero is Sachin. But ask the men what they enjoy most, pat comes the reply, ”Football”. Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea supporters are in every part of the country. Some say tennis or hockey. But the amount of funding and reporting that goes into cricket can’t be surpassed by any other sport. Equal focus on other sports will not only bring recognition to those games but also inspire youngsters to pursue them.

* One more for the machismo opinions I received. Gadgets, bikes, cars, technology and the latest trends. Now that you think of it, we don’t have channels or newspapers devoting as much time and space as we need to this genre. Reviews on the latest trends found a spot on every guy’s view that I could come across.

* Being neutral. Based on the facts that I discovered above, in India neutrality seems quite impossible. For example, in Tamil Nadu, each of the two major political parties own news channels and newspapers which report as they please. Imagine the mystification that arises, especially at election times when each channel proclaims its respective parties as the victor.

* Even Tiger Woods is human. All of us have our skeletons hidden deep in our closets, one weakness or the other. It’s hard to fathom why respectable news organizations turn paparazzi when it comes to the dirty secrets of the rich and famous. Each of them is entitled to their own private lives. They are answerable to their families, not to us or the media.

* Freedom of the press is an essential right. But a perimeter on it is even more essential. The media inadvertently helped the terrorists guide their counterparts within the Taj and Oberoi Hotels by their minute by minute feedback of the situation there.The entire operation was put in jeopardy. If some issues are not viewer —content appropriate, then don’t show it. One guy’s feeling came quite as a surprise. He wanted a cut-down on the soft porn freely displayed on television. It’s too accessible and said “if we want porn, we know where to look for it.”

* Participatory journalism is a concept by which the public become a part of the media. Ohmynews, a South Korean online newspaper has 80 % of its contents written by the freelance contributors, as in the general public. By this concept, the gap between the media and the common man is bridged and issues that deserve coverage are given a chance to come into the spotlight.

* Most people strongly disliked the reality shows being telecast here. Now reality shows as such aren’t such a bad thing. For instance, THE CANDIDATE, a reality show in Afghanistan has ordinary people acting as candidates contesting for presidency. They debate on policy topics ranging from security, education, health care and the economy. The policies they discuss have set a precedent for the actual President itself and brought forward many issues which have never been discussed. Somehow the media has united with the people and together brought up issues that the Government should take note of. Such shows are any day better than a Splitsvilla that we, in India, get to put up with. Inspire us and help us grow.

To sum it up in one word, what everyone wanted was simple – CHANGE.

The media has the power to take forward a whole country.

We want it to be the voice of the people, the cries of the un-educated children and the screams of the abused young girls.

We want it to represent the youth.

We want it to be the face of justice and realism, science and out-of-the-box thinking. One great movie quote says it all, ”With great power comes great responsibility”.

The media should start following instead of preaching change.

Drop in a comment below or mail us at info@youthkiawaaz.com, you can also tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz.

The writer is the Tamil Nadu correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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