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The Media Have Become The Biggest Perpetrators And Enablers Of Crime

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Young Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic, untimely death left the entire nation in shock and distress. Yet, the investigation of the case by TV news anchors who consider themselves the “harbingers of justice” has been no less harrowing. Media moguls have declared themselves the “vanguards of the fight for equality” leading a “legitimate” struggle to free Indian society from its festering social problems and entrenched inequalities. 

But their actions so far reflect the opposite. They have, and continue to display distorted or “out-of-context” evidence, push arguments in directions to make them “sansani khabar” and undermine the autonomy of various government organs. The independence of the judiciary is being questioned since it is now paying heed to the opinions of the unhinged mob guided by the “TRP-driven” media. These actions are an assault on the very social fabric on which our democratic values and systems are based.

Certain sections of the media are trying to vilify Rhea for her choice of clothing, be it a salwar kameez or western outfit.
Representational Image: Wikimedia Commons

The media should instead live up to the role for which it was initially established: to act as the fourth pillar of democracy. Media anchors should present facts as they are and not mix them with conjecture to befuddle the general public’s perceptions on crucial issues. I think the media of current times must be given a sense of direction by a “moral compass” as they seem to have lost basic human ethics. 

Instead of extensively covering pressing issues such as the “partition-era-like” migration, the 23.9% GDP contraction, massive unemployment, the India-China LAC tensions, and the unprecedented rise of COVID-19 cases, they have taken over the duties of the police and court without actually having the expertise, qualification or the right to do so. 

The media at large has forgotten its primary role and is no longer an information provider. On the contrary, it has become a source of entertainment or a veritable primetime “circus” with Arnab Goswami as the “ringmaster”. 

These media “tycoons” are profiting from society’s insouciance, reinforcing the deeply-rooted injustices, polarising people on political lines, promoting pseudo nationalism, invading privacy and promoting sexism and misogyny through their patriarchal argot. In this way, their “disinformation-for-profit” business model, that uses our psychology against us, is minting the most money.

Most media outlets do not care about justice, they are run by TRPs.

By the rule of law, a person is innocent unless and until proven guilty by the court. Therefore, the instant verdicts handed out in newsrooms and the declaration of people as guilty by presenting inconclusive evidence debase the values enshrined in our Constitution and the supremacy of law and order.

To understand this better, consider the following hypothetical scenario: A robbery took place at your house and you were the only person present at that time but did not witness it. Naturally, you will be the prime suspect. However, a proper investigation will be carried out and the court will deliberate on this matter, and till that time you will be considered innocent by law.

Now imagine a third party having no conclusive knowledge of your case, the media, for instance, declares you guilty. Millions of people blindly accept this verdict and are now creating unfounded pressure on the police and court to send you to jail. How would you feel? The thought itself is terrifying, but this is what is happening to people around us and we are obliquely encouraging this phenomenon.

The media, with their skills of persuasion and incendiary rhetoric, manipulate and seduce the general populace. Imagine, if they can successfully mislead well-educated individuals, then the remaining sections of our society will certainly take the information they present as gospel truth. By acting as the “de facto government” that operates on the surfeit of fake news and patriarchal impulses, the media has become the biggest perpetrator of crime on our democracy. As a result, our democracy is facing the direst crisis of any kind.

Rohingya Refugee
Facebook acknowledged that it had been too slow to act in Myanmar against the online rhetoric that led to the Rohingya genocide. Representational Image: Wikimedia Commons

Social media is no less guilty in this regard. Jeff Orlowski’s Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma aptly highlights how social media has psychologically trapped us and transformed us into lab-rats on which large-scale experiments are being carried out. By keeping us engaged and addicted, this trillion-dollar industry is adding more trillions to its profits. 

Since fake news has a greater potential to be sensational and addictive, the algorithms of these tech-giants bombard our feed with conspiracy theories. This, in turn, has the effect of radically changing and polarising our opinions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) tailors the information that is presented to us and completely blocks our thought-process. Moreover, these rankings-based algorithms devastatingly affect meaningful dialogues in democratic countries, since people lose their open-mindedness by being constantly subjected to biased and one-sided information. 

The 2020 Delhi riots, Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and 2017 Rohingya genocide in Myanmar were all spurred by social media. These horrifying instances shed light on the highly vulnerable nature of democracies worldwide and the critical need to regulate social media. 

delhi riots
Facebook India vice-president and managing director has been summoned in connection with complaints about the social media company’s “deliberate and intentional inaction” in controlling hateful content on its platform during Delhi Riots. Representational Image: Wikimedia Commons

On this Day of Democracy, we must pledge not to let the media fool us. We must actively seek out information from unbiased sources and form an opinion only after critically assessing the facts. We must not become prey to this facade and drama-of-sorts that the media is putting up. Let us promise to be open-minded in this age of disinformation, and by doing so, commensurately pay back our freedom fighters who gave up their lives for our independence and democracy.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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