From Watchdogs To Bullies: Media’s Troubling New Role In A Modi-Led India

The much eulogised Indian media, also known as the fourth pillar of democracy, has turned upside down since the coming of the Narendra Modi government.

The media channels which were once the most accurate, extensive and trustworthy in the country have become stooges of a government and more so, of a certain kind of politics which is detrimental to the core principles of the Indian Constitution.

The instances range from most unfortunate to simply bizarre. During the February movement in JNU, against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and others on sedition charges, the biggest media houses went on a rampage to prove that Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were linked to anti-national (read: Pakistani) elements with wholesale propaganda, provocation and even assault. The scapegoating media had termed the students guilty even before the case went up to court.

Ironically, the court recently found no evidence of seditious activity in the evidence provided by the Delhi police against Kumar and Khalid. The surprising fact is that the media, which branded them as a terrorist didn’t even apologise for their misrepresentation of the student’s movement.

The incidences have risen in the last year itself, with allegations similar to JNU being levied on the Ramjas campus based on the complaints of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP – a students wing of RSS) which itself perpetuated the attack on both the students and teachers.

The attack on normal cattle traders, milkmen, Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes have intensified massively, and yet the Indian media has mostly shuddered to speak against it, as most of these groups have links to the ‘ideological master’ of the ruling party, i.e. the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In times of the farmer crises, droughts and suicides, the Indian media went about Bollywood gossips, sporting extravaganza and the idolization of the ruling party and its charismatic leader.

Demonetization of the economy, which apparently sacrificed 100+ people and millions of jobs at the altar of corruption, was expropriated as a game changer. But a year down the line, after its failure to accomplish any goals, both the government and its pet media is in rejection mode.

The version shown by major media houses to any form of movement which is antithetic to the present government or its associates is not only avoided but maligned badly to suit the hands in power. The latest being a total media blackout on the million-strong march of agriculturalists, teachers, workers, labourers etc. in Delhi called by the Left parties.

In my opinion, the media is slowly turning into a bullying machinery which attempts to break anything if it doesn’t bend. The unrelenting attitude to fit into the majoritarian agenda is not only dangerous but destructive to the nation.

In times such as these, there is an immediate duty of the people who still strive to keep media a democratic place to raise their voice against this strangulation of the voice of free media and making it a pet of the powerful. The media is responsible for creating the public discourse to a large extent. If it falls prey to the status quo and goes voiceless, the democratic society of which it claims to be a functioning unit, will be reduced to ashes.

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