For the longest time, the image of a journalist was similar to that of an activist. A person wearing a kurta, a jhola, specs and asking the hard questions. As time progresses, one would expect that such an image would only get better and as more people come out of fancy journalism schools and colleges where ‘Journalistic Ethics’ is a core course, it would lead to the creation of powerful media outlets who ask real questions.
But lately, the graph of progress has been on a fast-moving downward slope. Journalists and the media have been adopting the role of the police, the law, the lawmakers, the judge and the judiciary. What is going on?
The type of aggressive journalism, harassment and almost stalker-like tactics adopted by the Indian media to feed to the ideal minds of people behind screens is shameful and disturbing.
Instead of quality reporting and well-researched facts derived from official documents and experts, the opinions and thoughts of people are what constitutes the media today. Any profession in the world has a standard of ethics that need to be followed. These code of ethics are put in place to prevent the chaotic and the ugly side of an investigation from the public eye.
Suppose A murdered B. If upon receiving the information, people with no authority start investigating, passing loud flashing judgement, involve A’s neighbours and ask them what they think of his character, start brutal campaigns without all the facts in hand, the media would not only be undermining the authority of the police and the law but also grossly violating the basic human rights of A, who is innocent until proven guilty.
Suicide is disturbing. When someone you know, love, respect or and relate to passes away, we desperately look for closure and answers. It is very difficult to understand what makes a person take such a drastic step to end their life. It is natural to feel frustration and anxiety but holding another person responsible without any basis or evidence is a burden you don’t want on yourself. You can’t make someone feel responsible for someone’s death based on no real evidence because that accusation is unfair on so many levels.
Without knowing, you might become a part of the same group that condemns people or passes judgments for being a woman, being gay, lesbian, transgender, Bengali, Marathi, black, brown, urban or rural.
We have so many issues to address on the media today like: the negative GDP, unemployment, farmer suicides, India-China war, climate change, rising corona-virus cases. Answers, accountability and investigation into the political protests and situations that dispersed on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the Delhi riots, genocide of Muslim minorities in China, loss of jobs and life, environmental degradation, loss of livelihood in the rural areas, collapse of the public healthcare system, attack on the freedom to speech and expression, authoritative orders of the judiciary, violation of human rights in Kashmir, the negligent manner of implementing police investigations, mental health crises, discrimination based on caste, race, religion and ethnicity instead we are conducting lousy media trials.
As a citizen of India my expectation from the media is this: Do not to tell me what to think and who to support. My expectation for the media is to provide me with an impartial, unbiased and truthful wealth of information that I can use to form my own opinions and thoughts and have my own take. I have a brain that can form its own connections, thanks.
This is far from reality. What I see on every media platform as you read this, is just a lot of shouting, screaming, huffing and puffing young journalists chasing people in cars, the infamous vilifying of Bengali women as witches and crushing the remaining shred of dignity of the dead. To add on to that, we have become a joke in front of the international community. We act as though the only people watching are us yet there is an entire world out there with their eyes on us who can see us making a fool of ourselves by letting these biased, sexist and outright unethical media houses act this way.
As a regular consumer of content published on international media, I have noticed the peculiar behaviour of the Indian media. We believe that all we need from the people behind the screens is to think. Just think. Think before you form opinions, think before you mock or threaten someone on social media, think before you accept information and pass it on, think and think hard. Apply logic, reasoning and common sense. It is not that hard to see the dirty and brutal turn journalism has taken when you take off the veil of hatred, anger and confusion, and take a minute to consider the facts.
We need to be extremely mindful of the kind of society and the future we want to live in. We are at crossroads now, we could either head towards an authoritarian self-reliant society that believes in patriarchy and supremacy of a select few. And believe in the person who is the head of the state for his charisma rather than the principles he follows. Or we could take the path of acceptance, education, information, technology, international relations and cooperation, mutual trust and development and deal with the issues that we face as human beings rather than as disconnected groups.
I, for one, really hope we choose the latter.