It’s no secret that over the last couple of weeks, if not months, that Indian media was entirely off the path of being a faithful journalistic watchdog. A significant section of Indian media was prioritizing the elections of 2021, spinning a positive image and acting as PR agents of the regime over the dead bodies of Indians who were dying outside the hospitals, gasping for oxygen, hunting for primary health facilities, and medicines.
The international media, along with journalists like Rana Ayyub and local journalists, were trying to bring the actual stories from the grounds of India.
In any functioning and genuine democracy, media is entitled as one of the pillars of democracy, which works as a gatekeeper, watchdog, and the voice of the people. It was so disheartening and disturbing to see the way they had been acting during this second wave of nationwide covid carnage.
Their real job was to hold the people in power accountable for their mismanagement, misplaced priorities, and bringing an actual image of the crisis in front of the people, along with making a network of connections and contacts to give away on a daily if not an hourly basis of verified covid resources leads using their vast network and connections.
It is essential to understand that democracy is a very fragile concept. If any one of its pillars fails to function as it should be, then the fall of democracy is inevitable and thus, in my opinion, it paves the way for fascism and dictatorship. Therefore, it is not surprising why we continuously see traits of fascism and authoritarianism. And if we go by the facts, then it is obvious where we are. As per the World Democracy Index 2021, we fell to the 53rd position and got labelled as ‘flawed democracy’.
As per the Reporters Without Borders ranking of 2020, we are at 142nd place, which is an all-time low for us. As per the USA-based Freedom house’s index of 2021, we downgraded from ‘free democracy’ to ‘partly free democracy‘. We even topped the list of the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2020. By a Sweden-based agency, we’ve been labelled as an electoral autocracy.
Now one may say these facts are ‘international conspiracy’, or this is ‘India’s internal matter’, but ultimately the loss is ours if we let our nationalist or patriotic sentiments come in between these alarming signs of fascism. It is still not too late to re-discover our way back to the lightness of democracy from this darkness of totalitarianism.
It is shocking how morally lost Indian media has become when thousands of people were dying and desperately looking for covid resources, the media covered massive election rallies, exit polls, and whatnot. Is it morally right to do so amidst this deadly crisis when crematoriums are running out of wood to function and when graveyards are running out of land to bury the dead? This is the question as rational citizens we need to ask the Indian media right now and force them to get back on the right track of democracy.
Another critical factor is when international media was continuously bringing the news from urban and rural areas with the help of journalists like Rana Ayyub and local journalists. In some way, the ‘liberal journalists’ got jealous and wrongly blamed Ms Ayyub for taking all the credit. They felt as if only they were entitled to represent India at a global media level and not someone from a minority community.
There are plenty of journalists in India working for Indian orgs who are reporting on the pandemic bravely/meticulously. Noida-based studio ≠ ‘domestic’ media. In fact, Rana Ayyub hasn’t reported on the pandemic but is repeatedly called on as a talkinghead in international media https://t.co/VVr5qkfqwk
— Manisha Pande (@MnshaP) May 4, 2021
Rana Ayyub has become the go-to person of lazy international media panels for everything from farmers protest to the pandemic, often pedalling half-baked exaggerations without putting in the rigour of reporting that many other Indian journalists do.
— Manisha Pande (@MnshaP) May 4, 2021
Manisha Pande, an Executive Editor at Newslaundry, tweeted about Rana Ayyub and her work with international media.
Thus, this sparked controversy over Twitter, and international media was labelled as “lazy media” and Rana Ayyub as a “go-to person” for the international media. Now, this isn’t some Rana Ayyub appreciation post, but her work speaks for herself, and that’s why she is where she is right now.
But the sad aspect is during this controversy is, who gets the benefit out of it? The people in power get more time to do PR damage control stunts with the help of government-allied media outlets.
One fine example of those stunts is the recent Tejasvi Surya’s communal and discriminatory act in Bangalore. He called out the names of 16 people (all from the Muslim community) out of above 120 working staff at BBMP South Zone War Room. The government-allied media was quick to break the news as breaking news without even verifying the information. Ultimately, later the police clarified there was no involvement by the Muslim staff whose names were mentioned by Tejasvi Surya.
Also, even when the Indian media dared to question or hold the people in power accountable, they did so while pretending to not know who to blame for this catastrophe or who is responsible and how we ended up here. When international media covered it, they were clear in their approach to hold the responsible people accountable. Therefore this is the significant difference between Indian media and International media.
To conclude, media need to do their work reasonably, honestly, and rightly. Otherwise, the media itself has to be blamed along with the people in power for this carnage.