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Judge, Jury and Executioner: The Media Is A Shell Of Its Former Self

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The media used to be the fourth pillar of democracy. It was a mechanism that used to check on the judiciary and the legislature and executive. They exist to ensure that the country’s three pillars neither abuse their power nor have a fallout against each other. They are also the tool to make people aware of the current socio-political events, economic plans, foreign relations of the state and regional events.

The impact that the media has created in the world’s largest democracy has affected the shape of history and the government’s function. However, over time, unfortunately, the media has changed. In other words, it changed for the worst.

When the world is suffering from a cruel and destructive pandemic, the media has abused their influence and power for the worst. It has also brought the worst out of people all in the name of ratings. They have not only let people down but have also let themselves down for profit.

The media has become the Harshad Mehta of society.

And just like Harshad Mehta scammed banks, the media has scammed people by spreading fake news, misinformation, taking things out of context, manipulating the public, trying to act like the judge, jury and executioner, i.e. media trials, witch hunts, etc. The nature of journalism and discussion has changed too with the media now relying on screaming tactics to discuss or even call out names during debates.

In order to understand more about the abuse of media, let’s take the example of person “ABC”, a woman who has criticised the government for how they handled the economy. And a news media company named XYZ has caught the wind of this. So, they take the words out of context and twist them so that it would seem like ABC was trying to speak against the country. Then XYZ becomes the judge, jury and executioner and assumes and concludes that ABC is an anti-national, and people will eat it up.

ABC being a woman will get rape threats and death threats. She will also face witch hunts, harassment and most likely be ostracised from society. XYZ does not care that she has a right to express her opinion under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution (freedom of speech and expression) and that there is a law for sedition (Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code). But for the insatiable greed of ratings, Article 19(1)(a) and Section 124A are thrown out the window. This is just a mere example, but it shows how far the media is willing to go for profits and ratings.

In the 1950s, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy told the entire country that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. and that anyone could be a communist. This was the time when the freedom of speech was replaced with fear of communism. If anyone spoke against the U.S. government, they were a communist. During that time, alleged communists were harassed, witch-hunted and most likely ostracised by society.

media bias
The media has neglected its duty as the fourth pillar. Credit: Kroordarshan / क्रूरदर्शन

In modern-day society, media companies that act like vultures to gain ratings are proponents of modern-day McCarthyism and it is not good for the people or government.

The Jasleen Kaur case is the perfect incident of how the media abused their influence and power. Jasleen Kaur accused Sarvjeet Singh of sexually harassing her in a Facebook post, which became huge news. The media acted like the Supreme Court and instantly supported the girl, and started calling the guy “Delhi ka Darinda”. The latter lost his job and was harassed by the mob. No one even listened to his side of the story.

Sarvjeet was eventually acquitted because the girl did not attend the court proceedings and the court also questioned the credibility of her Facebook post. Nevertheless, the accusations ruined the guy’s life and the “guilty before proven innocent” mentality of the media vultures and mob made it worse.

Another incident regarding the misuse of the media’s influence and power is the Rhea Chakraborty case. Following the unfortunate demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput on 14 June 2020, people were saddened and furious about the ordeal. The anger was vent out against Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt and other Bollywood elites and star kids.

However, they weren’t the only targets of the angry mob. They turned their attention to the deceased actor’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty as they believed that she was somehow responsible for Sushant’s death. Rhea was already arrested by the NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) for her use of drugs. With the conspiracy theories regarding Sushant’s death riling up, the media pushed and twisted the narrative that she made Sushant take drugs and asked for more money, which is why he committed suicide.

Unfortunately, Rhea became the target of the media’s McCarthyism and was subjected to a tonne of hate and death and rape threats. To add insult to injury, while on her way to the NCB, she was constantly harassed by the rating vultures of TV media. Because of this, the morality of the case has been questioned.

The double standard of the mob was called out because after Sushant’s death the people talking about the importance of mental health were the ones affecting Rhea’s health by harassing her [Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution puts restrictions on Article 19(1)(a)].

The judiciary needs to be a deterrent against the growing side effects caused by media trials. The Contempt of Courts Act 1971 and Article 129 and Article 215 ensure the right to a fair trial to citizens of India. If a media person does something that disrupts the practice of a fair trial, they shall be punished for it. An aggrieved person whose character has been assassinated by the media can sue them under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

If the names of victims have been revealed, the person can be punished with imprisonment, which can be extended to 2 years.

Lastly, the media needs to understand that they’re here to give news and ensure that the other pillars of democracy function well.

In the end, the sovereign citizens need to understand that not everything the media says is right, and they abuse their influence and power when it profits them. The media needs to understand the downside of media trials and how it affects the fourth pillar of democracy. And as the new generation is coming up, they need to make sure that the media is healthy and useful for the people.

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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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