Today i came across an article written by veteran journalist Shekhar Gupta. The article set off a chain of thoughts & so, although i will refer to Shekhar Gupta’s article liberally, this is no counterpoint or rejoinder to Mr Gupta’s article, as a citizen, i do have a viewpoint & it must be stated.
Agreed, it isn’t the media’s job to fill the space of the opposition but the media does have a place of preeminence, as the fourth pillar of democracy, is it fulfilling the responsibilities that go with this position ?
The need to keep the citizenry aware, sedulously verify and re verify the facts of a story before the citizenry is made aware of the story & the fearlessness to say the truth to both, those in power & those who aspire for power, these are the responsibilities that go with the tag of being the fourth estate of democracy.
A few weeks ago, a news magazine broke a story, on the abnormalities in the conditions of CBI Judge Brijmohan Loya’s demise, a greater part of the news channels & print media disregarded the story, this from a industry where each journalist and his nephew were investigative journalists pre 2014, it took a press conference by four sitting supreme court judges to bring the matter back into focus. Kapil Sibal of the Congress, the primary opposition party, which is purportedly lethargic, when in opposition, held a press conference on the issue, the brave media cut live feed of the press conference, in ninety seconds flat, juxtaposition this with a television channel, dutifully tweeting about 600 cr Indians having voted for PM Modi, never mind, that the statement was outright wrong or may have been uttered inadvertently.
The charge against the Congress is, unlike the BJP when it was in opposition, Congress leaders do not meet journalists with a story in their pocket, or haven’t reached out to civil servants to try & sabotage the Modi administration as the BJP did, when it was in opposition. In hindsight, we now know, where the much hyped 2G & coal block allocation cases are headed, meanwhile the media’s much vaunted Vinod Rai is busy managing cricket affairs. What exactly did that, without any due diligence, sensational reporting period achieve, apart from bringing in a sense of gloom & doom and setting the nation back by years, shouldn’t the media actually be introspecting on how objective its reporting was ?
Recently, a prominent news anchor broke the story of a Hindu boy being tortured to death, by boiling oil poured over his head. In Karnataka, where the incident allegedly happened, the report excaberated, already prevailing religious tensions in some parts of the state, was proved false, by subsequent forensic reports & was in all possibility fed to the journalist by a BJP leader who may have met the journalist, with a story in his pocket. We have also had instances of news sites pulling down stories on the growth of Amit Shah & Smriti Irani’s assets, within hours of being uploaded & NDTV pulling down a well researched story on Jay Amit Shah’s business dealings.
We have also had some great instances of objective reporting about the advanced chip in the ₹ 2000 note, the number of cows in Yogi Adityanaths gaushala & in the case of one news channel, the name of Adityanath’s barber & now we also know, Adityanath has a pet dog named Kalu. In all this seriously objective reporting, no one from the media has bothered to tell us why a MOS in the Union Cabinet was dropped during the last reshuffle, presumably it is not in ” National Interest”
The reasons for this sycophancy & supplication aren’t hard to guess, it is a well accepted fact that government advertisements are perhaps, the single largest revenue stream for media houses & perhaps that tool is being well used under this dispensation. So we have the curious case of the NDTV owners, lecturing the world at large, on the importance of a fearless media from the pulpits of the press club, on one hand & on the other axing an interview of a former finance minister & it is said, desperately reaching out to ministers & senior ruling party functionaries for help, the startup funding model may also require editorial content to be aligned with the ideological thinking of the moneybags, at least some of the time, if not all the time.
An argument is put forward, the journalist is brave but the owners succumb to pressures, but that is a fault line entirely for media to sort out internally, as the consumer i would expect, the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the fearless truth.