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.
Image used for representative purposes only.