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Can India See Better Investigative Journalism?

Posted on May 17, 2011 in Media

By Shreya Arora:

Watergate burglary is a milestone in the history of investigative journalism. The kind of work that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two journalists of Washington Post did, took the profession of investigative journalism to a completely new level. In this era where freedom of press and speech is given so much importance, it is quite surprising to see that the world’s largest democracy has not been able to set any important bench marks. Has anyone ever given it a thought as to why, India has not been a part of this revolution in a big way?

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

India’s constitution is one of the best constitutions in the world. It provides equal freedom of speech to both, her citizens and the press. The press has been given the liberty to express its views but it has to keep in mind the basic restrictive clauses under the Right to Freedom of Speech. But how often do we read an article or watch a news package which talks of an Indian journalist having done a similar kind of courageous work like Woodstein once did?

Despite of all the hindrances, the two journalists did not lose hopes and proceeded with their case. Something which was unusual about this story was that, these two journalists were backed by their editor, even when his paper’s reputation was at stake. Possibly due to the privatization that is seeping into our media industry these days, we barely hear of any case where the editor or the organization has stood by the journalist on a story where the organisation’s business was in danger.

Despite of spending a good number of years in the industry, a lot of journalists decide to quit their jobs merely because they feel that the power to bring about a change lies in the hands of the higher authorities and not in their pen and paper. A lot of articles are often refrained from being printed, not because of the quality but because they might harm the reputation of the news organisation. This is a major reason for the short industry life of the young journalists.

We might be reminded of the Tehelka case when we are talking of investigative journalism but we shall not forget that the magazine is not a family business unlike the rest, it is driven by a few investors. Thus, proprietary control is almost nil and the journalists can go ahead with what they think is necessary for the public to know.

We are about to step into a new phase of journalism and I believe it is very important for both, the journalists and the organizations to know that it is their prime responsibility to convey the truth and only the truth to the public. Instead of having business as their aim, they must have the responsibility of being the Voice of the public as their target.