Indian journalism is at a crossroads. This is not merely a sweeping statement, but a point which this democratic republic needs to act upon. In the Modi regime, one can notice a superb somersault by a section of the media, which keeps a faithful, duty-bound role towards Lutyens’ Delhi.
On the other hand, another section of the media, that has undoubtedly been playing a rational role with respect to the ethics of journalism, which always stands on the pillar of anti-establishment politics, has suddenly become a target for rich crony capitalists against whom news has hit the public domain.
James D. Wolfensohn, the World Bank President, once stated, “A free press is not a luxury. A free press is at the absolute core of equitable development, because if you cannot enfranchise poor people, if they do not have a right to expression, if there is no searchlight on corruption and inequitable practices, you cannot build the public consensus needed to bring about change.”
There are three examples which made me want to stand by the journalists who have been doing their job by not compromising the interests of the people, their wellbeing, and overall development. First, in 2014, senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta authored a book named “Gas Wars – Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis”. He was issued a legal notice, just because it pointed out the illicit undue favours given to Reliance India Limited by the government. This was a fearless expose on corruption – one echoed by the Comptroller Auditor General of India.
Second, in 2016, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, then editor of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) came up with an article titled, ‘Did Adani Group Evade ₹1,000 Crore in Taxes?’. It talked about the Modi Government’s ₹500-Crore bonanza to the Adani Group, whose head, Gautam Adani, is known to be close to the PM. After this expose, Gautam Adani issued a legal threat to Sameeksha Trust, which publishes Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), and Guha Thakurta. Again, the ultra-rich of our nation became furious after facing the best investigative journalism.
Third, The Wire came up with a revelation on the sudden rise in business of Jay Shah, son of BJP President Amit Shah. This made the Modi government and its leaders furious, which was expressed through a scathing attack on the media house.
Following this, we must ask two questions:
1. Why are the central government and its ministers busy defending a private citizen?
2. Why should the central government represent a private citizen’s case?
In each of the above-mentioned examples, the journalists or media houses did not make allegations, or play blame games, against the big corporate houses or political outfits. Rather, they cited information obtained from reliable sources, like the Registrar of Companies (RoC), based on statistical figures.
The manner in which BJP leaders are spilling threats against factual details of a company strongly suggests that the common man’s tax has been diverted to favour certain individuals. This nepotism undertook by those who came up with “Naa khaunga, naa khaane dunga (Neither will I be corrupt nor will I let others be)”, is made possible by exploiting the surplus value of the working class – 93% of which is still informal and unorganized.
It is high time for all of us to come forward and support the fearless, factual media houses and journalists. The attempt to crush the freedom of the media by the government needs to be defeated. The unholy nexus of economic market fundamentalists and socio-religious fundamentalists needs to be rejected to keep our democracy alive.