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The Media’s Obsession With ‘Super Objectivity’ Must Stop

Objectivity in journalism is an illusion. A journalist, newspaper or a news channel must do away with the idea of being super objective. They must possess an unbiased and a fair subjective opinion on every important event that could make or take the lives of people of this country in particular and the entire world in general.

One can question how someone could remain unbiased while possessing a subjective idea. Yes, it is possible. Being subjective is never bad, whenever you express it in larger national interests and of course in compliance with the goals of our democratic polity and constitution. Here, larger national interests too have various meanings. An idea initiated by liberals, claims that, this is the idea that will take this country forward and would cater to the needs of common people. On the other hand, conservatives too float their own ideas claiming that their idea is the best and suitable for the common good.

The problems begin when two different ideas confront each other. And here’s where the job of the journalists begin. Media interprets the two different ideas and put the right one before the common people by making these ideas understandable to them while doing justice to the people and cherishing the fundamentals of our constitutional mandates.

While I am writing this, few of my fellow journalists, friends and other intellectuals may disagree with my points and can definitely remind me of the lifelong lessons that have been imparted to us to remain neutral at all times. Regardless of the above arguments, we must dare to stand by the pair of ‘people and truth’, if we care about the significance of subjective elements and the perspectives. One can preserve his/her objectivity while having a perspective at the same time. I believe as a citizen of this country that being subjective in a legitimate sense and doing away with ‘super objectivity’ is very important especially in a country like ours where millions of citizens are still not literate.

The growing tendencies among journalists and media houses to achieve ‘super objectivity’ often lead to a disastrous situation that ultimately sets aside the centre point of public concerns.

For example, the objective elements based on the Prime Minister’s app opinion poll on demonetisation, suggest us that everything is good. It creates an impression that the people of this country have supported this move overwhelmingly but the perspectives and insights compel us to tell everyone a completely different story. Almost all the news channels and newspapers started singing in the same tune what is being already orchestrated by the government since the scheme has been adopted.

Questioning the survey’s sample size seemed like a huge no-no. Hiding the facts and numbers regarding smartphone users among our vast population shows the pro-objective nature of journalism with more inclination towards the government’s take. Now tell me, how justified is to vindicate oneself with this tiny sample size of 1 million in a country of over one billion?

Here is another example of ‘super objectivity’. On November 18, 2016, an interview of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went viral on social media. In fact, it was a Facebook live of BBC Hindi. In that interview, Kejriwal was making allegations about the Centre, the PM and other corporate top guns. Somewhere in the middle of the interview, Kejriwal lost his cool and started questioning the credibility of BBC. The reporter got offended and of course certain other media houses that stand tall claiming solace for the poor got hurt as well. Reports were published in a tone of accusation against the CM for losing his temper. But what had actually happened?

The CM had merely put the same facts and figures of deaths due to inconvenience caused by the demonetisation scheme that were being circulated in newspapers and news channels. He was referring to news reports regarding the deaths caused by the move. The reporter, without wasting any time, asked the guest inquisitively, how he could “directly link” those deaths with demonetisation?

When reports of deaths are coming from all over the country explicitly mentioning the circumstances pointing to demonetisation as a possible reason, asking for proof is a little much. Interestingly, when the question of credibility was brought up, the debate diverted into a different direction intentionally. I am very vocal with the issue of questioning a politician or a public servant. Freedom of press gives you the right to ask. Go and do it every time with full honesty, no problem. But ridiculing the facts and figures of a pathetic situation especially death is neither fair nor ethical in any sense. It actually ruins your objectivity too.

Why was the reporter representing the idea of being super objective on a specific question regarding the number of deaths? Death is death.

The principle of human ethics is above all professional ethics. Investigating the cause of death and questioning the exact number can truly make a reporter super objective but this does not accomplish the purpose of journalism and the press. The press must take a stand on certain things that affect the people of this country. Alignment with the government is actually de-alignment with the people. Press is all about putting people first, not the government and this spirit is possible only when a portion of subjectivity exists. Sometimes, super objectivity takes away the soul of truth. It is subjectivity that fuels fresh blood into this mechanism for keeping truth always alive through criticism and questions.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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