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Opinion: The Dangerous Changing Landscape Of “Biased” Indian Media Since 2014

*Trigger Warning: Mention of Violence*

Since PM Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, journalism has become a dangerous profession as is evident with the abysmal press freedom index and India being “among most dangerous countries for journalists”.

“A free press can be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom, a press will never be anything but bad.” – Albert Camus.

A saying by a great philosopher and journalist himself depicts the contemporaneous situation in the world’s largest democracy (India). A nation where the preamble and citizens’ rights are printed on the very first page of every textbook, but gradually the latter is getting scrapped.

 

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A nation with several hundred news channels, but only a few of them are working hard to shed light upon paramount affairs in the state. Yet, the warriors who are risking their lives to portray reality and who dissent from the views or opinions of the running government are subdued. It’s highly contrasting to Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution that states the right of freedom of the press.

In fact, since post-independence, the ties of politics and media have been intensified to such a massive level that now it’s inextricable. The criticism doesn’t end here. The most heartbreaking and saddening part is that according to a report, India is ranked 142nd in the freedom of press index, lower than the ranking of countries like Afghanistan and Palestine, respectively.

“Liberal press, the fourth pillar of democracy” indeed sounds extremely vigorous and the only influencer of 1.3 billion people in a single stroke. However, in the past few years, there has been an utmost inclination of the liberal press and it has become one of the most dangerous professions to pursue in India.

As per a report called Getting Away with Murder by journalists Geeta Seshu and Urvashi Sarkar, attacks on journalists between 2014–19 had some grim findings. The research was funded by Thakur Foundation, which works in areas including public health, the right to information and civil liberties.

journalists protest attacks on them
40 journalists were killed between 2014-19.

Atleast 198 serious attacks, including (murder threats and rape threats to female journalists) have been reported between 2014 to 2019, and sorrowfully 36 happened in 2019 alone. Maybe certain threats and attacks were reported just during the anti-CAA protest.

Over the same period, 40 journalists were brutally killed and many of them were and are receiving attack threats.

“Journalists covering conflict or news events were specifically targeted by irate mobs, supporters of religious sects, political parties, student groups, lawyers, police and security forces,” the report said. “Perpetrators of the killings and attacks included government agencies, security forces, political party members, religious sects, student groups, criminal gangs and local mafias.”

In September 2017, Gauri Lankesh, a stalwart and devoted journalist, writer and also a critic of the right-wing, was assassinated. Her assassination was planned a year before the murder. She was shot dead at her residence in Bengaluru.

Two journalists were killed in Tripura – Santanu Bhowmick from the news channel Din Raat while he was covering clashes between two rival tribal associations, and Sudip Datta Bhaumik, a senior journalist with Syandan Patrika, who was shot dead by a Tripura State Rifles trooper during an altercation in Bodhjung Nagar in Tripura.

There are more distressing reports. Rana Ayyub, an award-winning journalist and writer of the famous book Gujrat Files, was threatened for pursuing the truth. She was and still is the target of the worst kind of online and offline harassment just because of criticising the running government.

She has faced a wave of harassment on social media, including pornographic videos with her face photoshopped in them and the publication of her address and personal phone number. It’s exceptionally shameful that social media has become a prop for leaders to defame the right ones.

The managing editor of NDTV India, Mr Ravish Kumar, has not just constantly received abusive calls and death threats since 2015. He also received a threat video message from an ex CISF jawan of shooting him in his office and another video by a loyal member of Bajrang Dal.

Ranjan Rajdeo, a journalist with Hindi daily Hindustanwas shot from close range by assailants on a motorcycle in May 2016. He headed the paper’s bureau in Siwan, Bihar, and had written extensively on the case involving Shrikant Bharti — an aide of BJP MP Om Prakash Yadav.

 

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In September, Bobby Ghosh, the editor of the Hindustan Times, resigned. While the paper said this was due to “personal reasons”, The Wire had reported that Ghosh’s resignation had in fact been preceded by a meeting between Modi and HT proprietor Shobhana Bhartia and objections raised by BJP officials to editorial decisions taken while Ghosh was the editor.

Masrat Zahra, a 26-year-old photojournalist from Srinagar, was accused of “uploading anti-national posts [on Facebook] with criminal intentions to induce the youth”.

If you are not with the government, you are anti-national.

“Nobody, absolutely nobody” is spared from the new leaders of our democratic nation. From men to women journalists, old to young reporters, everyone speaking the truth is being harassed, trolled, mocked or even murdered.

As we always say, “a coin has two sides”, true-hearted followers also have two sides. The faithful followers of the government are guided and are in utmost protection from higher authorities. The present government has cultivated most of the anchors and news channels to build a cult of personality that portrays him as the nation’s selfless saviour.

Several puppets in Indian media are paid to speak scripted words on behalf of BJP leaders. The anchors who are sitting cross-legged on a revolving chair in their lavish studios are free and don’t waste a second to spread hate and convert any topic with a communal angle and create dispute all over.

news reporter
Journalists are being targeted for speaking against the government. (Representational image via pixabay)

Sudhir Chaudhary, the infamously pro-BJP anchor of Zee Newslashed out at Delhi residents and accused them of being selfish and not caring about the country after exit poll results for the Assembly elections declared a clear majority for the Aam Admi Party (AAP).

Chaudhary, a vocal supporter of Narendra Modi and his far-right BJP party, accused Delhi voters of not caring about issues like the Balakot airstrikes, Ram Temple in Ayodhya, or revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Instead, he stated that they only care about their local issues (education, water, infrastructure, etc.).

Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was sent a notice by Mumbai Police for allegedly creating communal hatred. The government is controlling the media and the minds of people with the help of television remote controls.

India is a land with over a billion people and thousands of languages and is heterogeneous in nature. Therefore, it is nothing but unprejudiced to think that everyone has their own eccentric perspective and ideas at the tip of their tongue. 

Democracy, accountability, diversity, unity in diversity, free press, secularism, etc., are certain profound qualities that define India (Hindustan). These radical words are just sculptured on the walls of the constitution, poetry and classic azaadi novels.

The enormous and agonising truth is that because of some extremist right-wing political identities and their domination of the people, the beauties of India are being demolished.

The biased print defines the biased nature of Indian journalism, which ironically shows the real face of everything which is and everyone who is defaming India. If India is not secular, India is not India.

Featured image via pixabay
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