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Is The Indian Media Anti-People?

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By Danish Khan:

“Everybody is accountable in a democracy. No freedom is absolute. Every freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions. I am accountable, you are accountable, we are accountable to the people.” The Press Council chairman Markandey Katju’s openly raising serious doubts over media ethics has sparked a fresh debate in the media industry. A few days ago, in an interview Katju told veteran journalist Karan Thapar that he wants powers to stop government advertisement, to suspend license of that media for a certain period if it behaves in a very obnoxious manner, to impose fines.

After that he also wrote a series of article in a newspaper, condemning the media of India. He pointed out various aspects of current Indian media scenario by comparing it with European media. He averred that Indian media is positively anti-people because it often diverts the attention of the people from the real issues to non-issues.

The Editors Guild of India, unhappy with the comments of Katju condemned them. Media, the fourth estate of democracy, is entrusted with the responsibility to disseminate unbiased information. Acting as a watchdog of the society, it keeps the other decision-making authorities i.e. Legislature, Executive and Judiciary in check. Media’s role in the society has undergone a drastic change as the conventional principles/practices governing media are considered outmoded. The lines between news and non-news content have blurred as the media is dabbling into paparazzi and tabloid journalism too. Under these circumstances, Katju’s comments can’t be completely brushed aside by terming them “ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media”.

Though, Katju’s remarks on the Indian media seems to be proven by a recent Bhanwari Devi CD case, where two national news channels showed a indecent video of a Minister Madrena and Bhanwari Devi.

However, the Ministry of I &B has issued show-cause notices to the involved channels, but if we see it from the glasses of self-regulation, it would certainly not satisfy anyone. Are media channels taking care of the ethics while practicing journalism?

Amid sharp criticism by the media houses, voices can be heard in support of Press council President Justice Katju. Some newspapers have supported the view-point of Katju by saying that he has shown a mirror to the industry. Hence, there is certainly something wrong with the media industry.

Media always plays its game in the disguise of freedom of speech and expression, it always overlook the ethics. There is a change in the way news is treated these days. In the market-driven media industry, the journalistic principles have taken a backseat and are often comprised to sell news like hot cakes as a commodity. The media no longer remains impartial and balanced while covering news as the market forces tend to exert their influence. TRPs play the vital role in setting the strategy of any news channel; the more entertainment it will serve, the more advertisements it will get. This has led to the lowering of ethical standards in media’s sphere.

The existing regulations are violated blatantly and especially by the electronic media. The coverage given to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement is still fresh in our minds. Hazare’s campaign turned out to be a highly-sensationalised drama, which kept on running on the news channels 24×7. As soon as there was even a tiniest of development in the story, it was immediately flashed as breaking news. The channels turned a blind-eye to other news, as if they lacked news-worthiness and the Anna hangover lasted for almost 2 weeks in the media.

The television channels unnecessarily drag a news story and blow things out of proportion. The NBA’s code of ethics bars the channels from invading the privacy of individuals, but the news channels openly showing their disregard for the ethical standards, dig up the personal lives of public figures and present

Sensationalized stories. The stories of celebrity link-ups and break-ups are quite common. The entertainment and glamour quotient seems to be always high in news channels.

The problem also arises as the self-regulatory mechanism for electronic and newly emerging new media is weak and it has failed to act as a deterrent against the violations of norms. Recently, NBA issued guidelines for all the news channels to show only 8 minutes of GEC (General Entertainment Content), but nobody is following these guidelines as clips of popular reality shows and daily shows can be seen easily.

New media, which is within the reach of almost everyone, poses a great danger in the absence of stringent norms. The content which is not in good public taste is also easily available and accessible on the internet. Various websites on the internet put soft porn content with the pictures of bikini clad women popping out in window. Obscene pictures of women are often put up even on the news websites to grab more eyeballs. Serious violations of ethics go unchecked on the internet.

But the government’s reaction to objectionable content is always met by strong opposition from the media representative bodies. Any attempt to regulate the media is resisted in the name of right to freedom of speech and expression. The mechanism of self-regulation has disappointed on many accounts, which makes it necessary to emulate the model of co-regulation, which is practiced in other countries.

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  1. nonymous

    The above article is 100% true and we need to control media.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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