Subject: Concerns regarding Media’s Portrayal of the Ongoing Farmers’ Protests
To Indian Journalists,
We hope this letter finds you in good health. We, as members of the Peacebuilding Project, write to you to address the ongoing farmer’s protests in India and their portrayal by various media outlets.
The farmers’ protests ongoing since September 2020 oppose the three farm bills that were passed by the Parliament of India, demanding that the government should withdraw all three bills and give an official guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agricultural produce. Fearing that the MSP will now be dominated by large private companies, farmers felt threatened about their livelihoods.
Arguments – both for and against the farm bills – should be open to discourse. However, we are disheartened to see that the media is not playing its role as Fourth Estate in making such civil discourses available to the eyes of their viewers. The role of the media as a watchdog of democracy, unfortunately, remains unfulfilled on this particular issue as most news channels are adamantly biased. We are saddened to see the wrongful twisting of reality by the media of the peaceful demonstrations by farmers.
News channels are often seen resorting to brutal misrepresentation, name-calling, and fake news. The procession has also been alleged to have the sole purpose of spewing conspiracy against the government. By doing this, the entire movement has been discredited and the plight of farmers has been trivialized. The media has failed us, and itself, to provide an accurate representation of why the farmers are protesting in the first place.
Since the start of the ‘Delhi Chalo Andolan’, media misrepresentation has escalated to an unprecedented level. Channels now not only flash headlines and name-call protesters as ‘Urban Naxals’ and ‘Khalistani’ but have also made unnecessary religious links to demean the movement. Furthermore, the violence that took place in the capital on 26th January was distorted by channels.
Countless incidents of fake news were circulated by some of the most-watched newsrooms. Viewers were purposely intended to believe that the protestors were violating the Indian Flag, while the reality was starkly different. Anti-national sentiments were forced to misrepresent the farmers for people watching from home, fostering a feeling of apathy towards the farmers.
At Red Fort, protestors were shown as intruders by the media when in reality they were allowed to enter by the police. News channels failed to mention the views of farm leaders who were, in fact, criticizing the wrongdoings of protestors from their side. The media’s prejudice and one-sided portrayal of who was to blame was a narrative of hatred and bias, which is failing us now and further doomed to fail our society in the long term.
In a country that has witnessed around 10,281 cases of farmer suicides in 2019 alone, it becomes pertinent to take the farmer protests seriously, and with honesty. The media’s role is primary and extremely crucial as it should be the conduit of truth between the state and its people. Instead, it is making matters worse – both for the protestors and the viewers. Rather than allowing open discourses to take place based on facts, the media is choosing a single-headed narrative and wrong methods to support it.
We, at the Peacebuilding Project, strongly believe that it is important for citizens to be aware of their surroundings in a transparent manner. We understand that, throughout this turbulent period, the media has been on your toes to do just that. However, these concerns must be addressed for the media to play an instrumental role in bridging the gap between the citizens and subject matters affecting our country. We hope that it can be done in the most righteous way possible, as it determines citizens’ outlook and allows them to form their perspective on the truth.
Thank you for reading, and hope true conscience prevails.
The Peacebuilding Project