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Last few days, citizens of India are coming together to oppose the quality of news coverage appearing in India Media. The grouse with the media is not new. It is age old, but while opposing the News Media, the Citizen of this Country also aspires to have a tool that is a true representative of the Collective Voice of the Nation, something they see lacking in the current set-up, by and large.
However, off late, especially in the last 10-12years, with the boom of Private News Channels, and motivated propaganda that they all have indulged in, the social structuring that they have tried to indulge in, the illogical positions they have taken on matters pertaining to Law & Order and National Security, the Foreign Affairs of India, the perpetual negative posturing on Govt Initiatives, under reporting of Govt Initiatives, exploitation of access granted to them under Freedom of Press as was showcased in Radia Tapes case, as has been demonstrated in the recent Documents Leak in Oil Ministry, and the strange case of a Journalist calling Govt of India a ‘liar”, on the Pakistani Channel, an Enemy Nation.
Media’s access to India’s Official Secrets has been another worrisome matter that, for e.g., contributed heavily to shutting down of an alleged Military Intelligence unit, the TSD.
Freedom of Press – The Origin
The Press was entertained and encouraged in India in the backdrop of recently received Independence from the British Empire who had heavily clamped down the voice of the natives. Freedom fighters in the era had great difficulties putting out the voice of the nation and create a popular sentiment that was in the Interest of the Indians and not necessarily in the interest of the British.
In the backdrop, after Independence, through the Fundamental Right given to the Individual Citizens of India, of Freedom of Speech and Expression, the Press was extended this right, in the context of Collective Voice of the Nation. The idea was to create machinery that would inform the Citizens about the activities of the High Offices of the Govt and at the same time inform the Govt about the popular sentiments amongst the Citizen.
In short, the idea behind extending an individual citizen’s Freedom of Speech and Expression to the Press in India was to encourage machinery that brought the Public and the Govt. closer to each other and create a harmonious environment within which Country’s welfare will be undertaken.
The Freedom of Press is not separately mentioned as any Fundamental Right in Indian Constitution. The Press is legally subjected to the same restrictions that any individual is subjected to under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
Press also has a right to earn Profits, for two simple reasons. One, it ensures their survival and ability to exercise Free Press and two, under Article 19(1)(g). And even here, it is subjected to the restrictions provided under Article 19(6).
Keeping this backdrop of Original Objective in mind, it is important to remember that News Media in India is supposed to operate within these two stated parameters and should meet the desired goals, i.e. Collective Voice of the Nation.
Is News Media fulfilling its role?
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We have seen news media whip religious passions, we have seen them divide this country along religious & casteist lines, we have seen them go slow on news or under report the news that requires nation’s attention, we have seen them bombard the news space with utterly nonsensical items that have nearly no relation to national interest, we have seen the media eat up nation’s precious time over encounter of terrorists (which they themselves accepted wanted to execute a “chhota-mota” blast), we have seen them call the Govt. a liar, syndicated article with Pakistani journalist peddling Pakistani version of the story and then walk into Pakistani newsroom calling Govt. of India a serial liar, we have seen them fix ministerial berths, fix policies through a wide web of lobbyists, corporate & politicians, we have seen them act as consultants in key sectors and indulge in Espionage of Govt. Policy Documents, we have seen them accessing India’s Top Secret classified files and accuse the Indian Army falsely of a Coup, we have seen them access highly classified documents on a Military Intelligence unit and expose its assets, causing it to be closed down and endangering the lives of its carefully cultivated Assets, we have seen them providing platforms to secessionist forces in Kashmir and other areas, we have even seen them partake of illegitimate money earned through corruption by politicians and indulge in money laundering and tax evasion, we have seen them twist news, we have seen them discussing and embarrassing the Prime Minister of India over his clothes, we have seen them literally acting as an agent of a certain political party in order to defeat another political party at a recently concluded State Election.
The constant role of the news media as seen today has been about driving a constant wedge between the Citizens of India and the Govt. of India. News Media has surprisingly not found any news worth celebrating in the last 9-10 months of the current Central Govt. It nearly never found a news to be sorrowful about, to complain about, to agitate about in 10years of the previous, failed regime of Congress that was pasted down to a mere 44 seats in a house of 545.
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We have seen the news media work with a prejudiced mind. We have seen them set an objective first and then manufacture news pieces around it. We have seen them produce news that lacks even basic research on subject. We have seen them assign jobs to reporters who have Zero Training on the beat that they cover. We have seen then media lace the ground reports with their own spicy views that rarely serve any national interest. We have seen the News Media attempting to set National Agenda.
This is the harsh reality, a bird’s eye view of what the news media is really doing in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constantly accused the news media of the above wrong-doings. During the General Election Campaign, PM Modi called them News Traders. During the Delhi Assembly Elections we saw him accuse them of being Bazaru, which is essentially the same things as calling them News Trader, though it may sound harsher as the meaning comes out very clearly in its Hindi rendition.
Is the Prime Minister wrong? I think Prime Minister could not have been more right. We may lose the depth from which the Prime Minister is trying to bring our attention to the rot and loss of objective in media in the din that shrouds these utterances.
Essentially, what the Prime Minister is saying is, that News Media in India operates under two Fundamental Rights issued to every Citizen of India. Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1(g) – Freedom of speech and expression and Freedom to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Out of these while media is working beautifully towards enjoyment of Freedom available to indulge in Profitable Trade, it is doing so, almost entirely, at the cost of Freedom made available to the Press, that is, individual Freedom to Speech and Expression.
All the privileges extended to it, legally, through backing of Supreme Court over the years, formally through special, nearly unrestricted access to high and mighty offices of the Govt. of India, are being abused. The list of activities given above makes these charges quite self-sufficient, in a way to explain that News Media in India is indeed Bazaru. These people are Traders of News, and they have nothing to do with the idea of being a “Collective Voice of the Nation”, to bring the Govt of India and the Citizens of India as close and harmoniously synchronized by apprising each about the activities and aspirations of the others.
The Press Council of India’s Report on Paid News may be recalled here. Matters have gone now into such an abyss that the Editorial Content on News Media is sold and therefore it is aligned to interests that may be totally detrimental to the interest of the nation.
Cost that Country bears!
This abuse of privileges under Freedom of Press by the News Media for the purpose of running their profitable Trade has a terrible impact on this country. Citizens are constantly misinformed, ill-informed or even uninformed about issues that deserve their kind attention. This is creating a rot in this country. It is coloring the electoral might of the citizen by way of making him make ill-informed or uniformed choices of Govt. in elections that leads to spurious policy making in Governance that leads to complete reversal of National Interest.
The Press Council of India’s Report on Paid News or a Video report showingthis rot should be taken seriously. Investigative Agencies must ascertain who the News Media Editors are taking the money from, what kind of Interests do such activities align with, who’s interests are the news media houses fulfilling through their activities.
As per current trend, a democratically elected Govt may not be in a position to oppose anti-National activities (activities not aligned with national interest & working against it) of news media houses due to popular backlash as citizens largely do not know what news media houses are upto.
It is now the job of informed citizens to take this truth about news media houses to the public-at-large. Please join hands, let everyone know that News Media in India is not the representative of our Collective Voice.