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Opinion: Once The Fourth Pillar Of Democracy, Indian Media Is A Putrid Wormhole In 2020

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Ashaant hokar chale gaye Sushant“, was the headline that began doing the rounds on a popular Hindi news channel moments after the media got wind of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. Things went from bad to worse when another one of those ‘popular’ news channels began harassing the late actor’s relatives for a byte. To put things simply, the Indian media is veering from information to ‘chaos’.

Gone are the days when journalism in India was synonymous with quality and credibility. However, these are all bygones. Welcome to 2020, a year where journalism, jingoism, rumour mongering, and herd mentality amount to the same thing.

The Heart Of The Matter

No prizes for guessing: Media, too, is nothing but an economic unit. The pressure to ‘manufacture’ a smoking-hot headline is immense. Moreover, no longer does the media fraternity have a 24-hour deadline at its disposal. Deadlines have shrunk considerably ever since the online media boom began making its presence felt. Newer headlines are being churned out at a rate of knots to grab eyeballs.

woman reading a newspaper
Gone are the days when journalism in India was synonymous with quality and credibility. Representational image.

Also, nobody waits for the morning newspaper these days. News stories begin doing the rounds on social media within a few moments of the event’s passing. What follows the event is a monumental barrage of likes, shares, and comments. Such is the pace at which news stories are created and consumed.

The relentless pace at which news stories are churned out makes it impossible for journalists to verify the facts. Given the time constraints, journalists are required to go all guns blazing. The ‘want’ to churn out stories at the speed of light is part of the ‘cancer’ that’s rotting the country’s media outlets. Also, gone are the days when judgements were delivered by the court of law. Judgments are ‘manufactured’ and delivered in newsrooms these days, it seems. SSR’s suicide/murder saga presents a perfect example of how not to go about the journalism business.

An Outdated Set of Books for Aspiring Journalists

Journalistic practices have undergone a sea change ever since online journalism began making its presence felt. However, textbooks from the 1970s are still being used to teach journalism to aspiring journalists.

Having read a few of them myself, I can tell you with the utmost conviction that not all, but a considerable number, of those books are redundant in this day and age. The likes of Bob Woodward and Carole Rich are exceptional writers, but many of their works from the 1980s have now become redundant, all thanks to an ever-changing media landscape.

Herein, you can’t help but think of the old adage that everything in life is subject to change. Therefore, much like anything and everything else, literature pertaining to journalism, too, needs to undergo an overhaul.

Violence and warmongering have become ‘normal’ in 2020. Representational image.

What Has Led To The Putrefaction Of The Media?

It is via TV screens and smartphones that the masses are exposed to the rotting corpse that Indian media has become. Violence and warmongering have become ‘normal’ in 2020. The India-China border spat has taken the shape of an all-out media war between the two countries. At a time when the world is being ripped apart by a pandemic, such ‘media-wars’ can be termed as nothing but shameful, to say the least.

Fake news is yet another problem that’s wreaking havoc. It’s the latest of maladies and is robbing the masses of their common sense. According to a survey, about 50% of the respondents claimed to have seen or heard fake news of some sort. Many of these stories were ‘manufactured’ to leverage political or commercial gains. Not long ago, a journalist, of the stature of Rajdeep Sardesai, fell prey to fake news.  The problem is much bigger than what meets the eye as it is difficult to pick out the genuine news stories.

To Conclude

Here’s the problem: the fine line between ethical journalistic practices, the right of the people to know, and the freedom of speech has become wafer-thin. Self-regulation isn’t the answer to anything.

Simply put, we do not need million-dollar media outlets, but responsible ones instead.

Featured image for representation 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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