A lot of controversies are going on about the Indian media and how it has projected itself in recent times. Several foreign media outlets are criticizing our media establishments over their “failure” to talk about issues of public welfare and focusing on “non-issues” instead. There is also doubt about the media’s objective role in covering the burning issues of the country. Besides, the allegations of paid news, promotional news and other ethical concerns are targetting India’s media outlets heavily over the past few years and more since the lockdown period to be specific. Even India’s arch-rival Pakistan has criticized our media.
Pakistan NSA very cleverly tells The Wire that Indian Government has sent out a ‘message’ expressing its keenness to engage with Pakistan. Looks like a ploy to not only divert attention from terrorism and economic nightmare of Pakistan but to send media on a wild-goose chase.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) October 13, 2020
So let’s focus on how the Indian media earned a bad name recently. What went wrong with the news presentation? What ethical mistakes that our media organizations did? We shall all these in this article.
Here are 5 ways Indian media is earning its bad name recently
1. Lack of focus on Centre’s ‘no-data’ claims in major issues
India has reported over 73 lakh Covid-19 cases, the pandemic is taking a heavier toll on jobs than previously estimated. The International Labour Organisation said that Global labour income is estimated to have declined by 10.7 percent during the first nine months of 2020. Adding to the shocker, during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, the Centre asserted that it did not have data on several crises that have cropped up as a result of the deadly pandemic. The Centre has come under massive criticism for failing to provide data on all the issues that are currently of utmost importance – the lack of data on migrant workers, on farmer suicides, wrong data on fiscal stimulus, dubious data on Covid-19 deaths, cloudy data on GDP growth, no data on police brutality during lockdown or PM Care Fund among several other issues. However, we don’t see much of our media outlets questioning or criticizing the Centre for not having information on these vital subjects. Some here and there reports but no steady coverage on this keep people in the dark about why the government they elected fails to provide these vital details.
2. Poor coverage of burning domestic issues
Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, it is almost a known fact how the uncalled situation has severely impacted the lives of the vulnerable section of the society, who have become the worse-off in this situation, from losing out on their jobs, to accessibility to healthcare services, food and shelter. The flood waters and landslides in many parts of the country created havoc at the burning time and claimed several lives. Situation along the Line Of Actual Control (LAC) also continues to intensify as India and China remain in a standoff for over five months. In such a situation, journalism has a great role to play, considering it as an ideally visualised platform for information and critical-rational discourse. The health of journalism in a country can be examined in the times of a crisis. None of the above seem to be extensively covered by Indian media, especially mainstream. The Indian media has become an instrument of the ideological apparatus. There are many concerns associated with the Covid-19 crisis: public health systems, guidelines/measures to contain the outbreak, the lack of planning and support to the vulnerable sections. These issues demand serious discussions, however, the mainstream media seems to be forgetting its role.
The migrant exodus and the government’s dysfunctional response to help these sections deal with the crisis doesn’t seem to be of any importance. A Bollywood actor’s death that was sufficiently reported by the media has now dominated coverage for months. It has now turned into a circus, creating different loops that have nothing to do with the actor’s demise. The sad state of affairs is that even the information surrounding the death has been sensationalized. The way mainstream media organizations have been reporting has drawn massive criticism from across the world, keeping propaganda and unverified news as top priority. Even at a time when coronavirus infections are soaring in India, any small update on the actor’s case or the narcotic’s bureau’s questioning of actors manages to grab national headlines. International media, however, has certainly covered some of the current issues prevailing in the country than the domestic channels- from migrant workers’ exodus, surging coronavirus cases, economic distress, rape crimes, incidents of vulnerable communities being targeted and much more that deserves our attention.
3. Foreign media covered India stories, when we’re busy with Rhea Chakraborty
The Economist mentioned how the border tensions have escalated, with Chinese incursions in Ladakh in 2013 and 2014 and 2017. It also highlighted how China was exasperated by India’s decision to revoke the constitutional autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir, and dividing into two Union Territories. Earlier this year, The Guardian wrote an extensive long story on the February Delhi Riots, stating the dominance of Hindu supremacists on the marginalized section of the society, and the violence unleashed by the Police at educational institutions. News such residents of Chushul village helped Indian troops face Chinese forces in the Himalayas never came across in our domestic media channels. CNN’s article on India’s response to coronavirus, economic challenges is another example. The article not only commended some of the steps taken by Modi at the beginning of the pandemic, but also laid down the contradicting point of views, giving a detailed insight into the current condition prevailing in India.
There are many more examples of how all of the above did not receive extensive coverage by our domestic media, which continue to remain in denial and ruin the reality of any story. A Hindu man was butchered by a mob in Mangalore, but it was not headline news. Preparations at Ayodhya for laying the foundation stone ran as prime time throughout the day, while our soldiers were being killed in action on the other side. A minor was brutally raped in Lakhimpur village of Uttar Pradesh, but steps taken by the Narcotics Bureau (NCB) on celebrity’s case was 24/7 on headlines. Nobody has been in denial of reporting it, but rape crimes, military incursions, coronavirus updates, economic distress and migrant exodus are equally important, in fact of utmost priority. The ranting levels of our television anchors and headline news seem more pronounced now and have somehow been successful in diverting our attention from issues that matter.
4. India is flooded with half-baked, colored news
It is not only Republic TV, there are several media organizations that are facing the charge of spreading biased, half-baked or factually wrong news. Republic TV is unquestionably “top of the heap” among English channels with its surging television rating points (TRPs), now stands accused of rigging its popularity through ‘bribes’, as it denies the charges.
ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, which owns Republic TV, and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami have moved the Bombay High Court seeking to quash the FIR lodged against the channel in the alleged fake TRP (television rating points) scam.https://t.co/KCjBB1eKXf
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) October 17, 2020
It smells of politics both ways. The channel headed by the belligerent editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has a long track record of confronting the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra after it fell out with former ally BJP, to which the TV news anchor is unusually and consistently kind in an otherwise boisterous style. On the other hand, it is rather odd for the police commissioner of the nation’s financial capital to hold a news conference to announce an alleged TRP scam. Irony of ironies, lies and fabrications are now touted as news – with no shred of evidence or meaningful sourcing as we witnessed in the news after the tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Republic ends up giving legitimacy to sources that in conventional journalism are ignored at best, and guarded against in normal times. As we know irony of ironies, lies and fabrications are now touted as news – with no shred of evidence or meaningful sourcing as we witnessed in the news after the tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Republic ends up giving legitimacy to sources that in conventional journalism are ignored at best, and guarded against in normal times.
5. Indian press not really free or independent
India’s free press has played a crucial role in protecting this country’s democracy since its independence from Britain in 1947. But journalists here now feel under attack. Since PM Modi came to power in 2014, we have seen, his government has tried to control the country’s news media, especially the airwaves, like no other prime minister in decades. Modi has shrewdly cultivated the media to build a cult of personality that portrays him as the nation’s selfless savior. At the same time, senior government officials have pressed news outlets — berating editors, cutting off advertising, ordering tax investigations — to ignore the uglier side of his party’s campaign to transform India from a tolerant, religiously diverse country into an assertively Hindu one.
These are dark times for India &our journalism is failing us. Our voices are being stifled, censored. We run a fake narrative, surrender to hypernationalism ,drown voices of sanity . I write on the state of Indian media & an urgent need for moral clarity. https://t.co/lCzGKN51Ek
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 22, 2020
With the coronavirus pandemic, Modi has gotten more blatant in his attempt to control coverage and, as with other difficult stories, some Indian news executives seem willing to go along. Right before he announced the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown, on 1.3 billion people, Modi met with top news executives and urged them to publish “inspiring and positive stories” about the government’s efforts. Then, after the lockdown stranded half a million migrant workers, with some dying along the highways, his lawyers persuaded the Supreme Court this week to order all media to “publish the official version” of coronavirus developments, although outlets are still allowed to carry independent reporting. An association of leading broadcasters was quick to praise the court decision, which many intellectuals said was yet another attack on India’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
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