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A Media That Exists Only For TRPs Is Dangerous For Indian Democracy

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India is the world’s largest democracy. In my opinion, a democracy depends on four pillars – the government, the opposition, the judiciary and the media. And since the 18th century, media has played an important role in shaping the future of nations worldwide, even during the times of the American Revolution, French Revolution.

In India, the erstwhile media aided in covering news about the atrocities of British government in India. Thus, they made people aware of the rights they were deprived of, changed their thoughts and awakened their consciousness to revolt and get freedom – leading to the gradual evolution of the Indian independence movement, and ensuring the participation of the masses in large numbers.

Today, media helps in making people aware about what’s happening in the various spheres – political, economic, agricultural, technological, fashion, etc. However, there are times when journalists risk their lives to provide us with news updates – for example, Barkha Dutt’s coverage of the Kargil war from the front-lines and the reportage of the 26/11 terror attack.

But the role of media does not ends here. One of the biggest responsibilities of the media is to provide unbiased news to the public and also provide the public’s opinion to the government. Media often acts as ‘the voice of public’. Its key responsibility is to stand against the government and the institutions, if they become corrupt and authoritarian.

With the intrusion of corporates, politics and industrialists into the media industry, the art of portraying unbiased facts and honest opinions has changed a lot. Nowadays, news channel have become more concerned with TRPs than providing relevant news. Consequently, there are many important and relevant news items that are not shown by media, while the irrelevant bits are repeatedly telecasted by many news channels.

For instance, there were news channels that were repeatedly telecasting the death of Sridevi and her ‘incarnation‘ in the form of a young and beautiful girl. During the time of Guru Ram Rahim’s conviction, news channels continuously discussed his relationship with Honeypreet. Likewise, there is a list of irrelevant news that diverts our attention from the highly important issues.

In this light, some of most important issues that were not discussed by mainstream media too much are:

1. The Kathua rape case (in the beginning, that is – it eventually gained attention through social media).

2. The change in the education system and its policies which are resorting to distorting the history.

3. In addition to this, there was the issue of numerous colleges being given autonomy suddenly – all in one go.

4. PhD students marching and protesting against the lack of funds for their projects, etc.

There are many news channels that also give very biased opinions, often in favour of the government in power – from the debates where journalists constantly accuse one party and speak in favour of another, to news items that try to divide people along religious lines. A ‘news’ also did the rounds which stated that the police’s accusations in the Kathua case were false. This later turned out to be a lie. There are many similar news items that are being published every day.

In this era of technology, videos are also doctored and presented in front of public by mainstream media without verification – often stoking communal sentiments and leading to polarisation.

Furthermore, there are a number of journalists who are either killed or slammed if they try to expose and oppose the misdeeds of criminals or politicians – for example, the death of Gauri Lankesh, the defamation law suit on The Wire, etc. This also creates a sense that journalism and media in India are in danger.

Eventually, this is leading to the loss of credibility of the Indian media. We can see this in the press freedom rankings, where India ranks 136 out of 180 countries, when it comes to press freedom. The public is also losing its trust of the mainstream media – and the news shown by them often create lot of chaos and confusion among viewers, when they try to distinguish between authentic and fake news.

However, there are some news anchors who still show the relevant news in an unbiased manner -but their numbers are either very less or they are using YouTube and social media to still keep the spirit of journalism alive.

Using media and journalism for TRPs, favoritism and to create a false mirror of the world (through irrelevant and fake news) and by restricting press freedom is very disturbing indeed.

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Image used for representative purposes only.

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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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