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Is “Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment” The Only ‘Mantra’ Of Indian Media?

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Media, also called as the fourth estate has a legacy of freedom struggle and has always been the face of social change. It’s not that media’s functioning has never been questioned in the past. But criticism against it is getting fierce now owing to its ‘Breaking News’ culture, yellow journalism, the sensationalization of news, irresponsible and biased reporting and an alleged binary outlook towards the government. People argue that this kind of journalism is weakening our democracy.

When I say people, I am not including those who watch these news channels. So, they argue that media today is weakening our democracy. This is laughable, at least for me.

I completely disagree with this. I mean, I am not saying this kind of journalism is strengthening our democracy but I don’t like the idea of defining media or interpreting media with some 10-12 reporters or anchors who belong to some big media houses. This is such a narrow perspective. I mean, the sample size is ineptly small.

The first news channel I watched was DD News. I was in school at that time. My father used to watch it after dinner and since there was no cable at that time, I had to watch it forcibly. Mrunal Pandey used to present news and it was boring, at least for a child. But it was knowledgeable, at least for an adult.

Pawan Jaiswal of Jan Sandesh Times exposed the deplorable situation of midday meals in a government school of Mirzapur/Photo: Times Now

Doesn’t DD News exist now? It does. Then why don’t people watch it? Vidya Balan has wisely given the answer in her celebrated film Dirty Picture. She said, “Entertainment, Entertainment, and Entertainment”. We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.

Okay, you won’t understand like this. Take a typical poor content Bollywood masala movie of a superstar and compare its box-office collection with a low budget but critically acclaimed movie of an unknown actor. You will be surprised. The same is the case with media. They are showing it because people want to watch it. Again, you might not understand this. Okay, so Hindi literature talks about Rasa which connotes a concept of the aesthetic flavour of any visual, literary, or musical work that evokes an emotion or feeling in the reader or audience but can’t be described.

Now imagine, on one news channel, a reporter is telling us why Malaika Arora ignored Arjun Kapoor at the airport, while on another news channel, the reporter is telling us why Jute industries are incurring losses. What would a normal person watch? Where is the Rasa? It is obvious. What can we do if jute industries are incurring losses?

So, I was saying confining media into such a narrow boundary is an injustice to media itself. I am not that pessimistic about media because till now, I have only watched the good part of it. I have witnessed the local and regional, state-level news channels covering the recent protest by students pertaining to SSC, Railway, RRB, PSC exam irregularities. Is this not media? I have also seen Pawan Jaiswal of Jan Sandesh Times exposing the deplorable situation of midday meals in a government school of Mirzapur. This news channel hardly has 2000 subscribers on their YouTube. I really respect such kind of journalism.

Few argue that many news channels have turned pro-government. In common parlance, these are known as ‘sold media’ or ‘godi media’. But I am not surprised at all. I have no grudges against any of these reporters. I, in fact, sympathize with them. They are just puppets in this whole politics-business nexus. Except a few, most of these news channels are owned by businesses supported by the government in one way or the other. Refer to Wikipedia and find it yourself. It is unimaginable that a reporter doesn’t abide by their channel’s directives. Acquiescence is better than getting fired from the job. Isn’t it?

Having said that, if an anchor himself is the owner of a news agency and is inclined towards the government, it is certainly not a good sign. That is not journalism in the first place. There is a difference between a journalist and show-runner.

Critique of the government is always better than supporting it. I have never seen a pro-government journalist getting a Pulitzer Prize. By speaking truth to power, journalism is supposed to keep establishment at the toes.

However, some argue that sometimes, the media needs to support the government so that it remains motivated. My instant reaction is, “What?” The government has the mandate of the people in an election. It doesn’t need the motivation to function and perform its duty. People never understand that it is not the goodness of their government that the media is chanting. It is, in fact, the government’s agenda of ideological counter-conditioning of masses.

Coming back to the point, media is not just about some selected reporters and news channels. It is much more than this. Watch RSTV, LSTV, DD News, State level news channels sometimes and see the difference yourself. But for that, you will have to make yourself a knowledge gainer rather than entertainment seeker.

If you have a habit of eating junk food, don’t complain of obesity and indigestion. Try daliya sometimes. It’s good.

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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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