Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy because of its constructive tile in making democracy lively, participatory and inclusive. Media highlights the problems of society so that state can take relevant steps for alleviating the issues of people. It also propagates the policies of political parties, spread awareness among citizens about their right and publicize schemes of government along with its critique. In this way, it maintains the two-way flow of channel of communication.
Sentiments & emotions suffer if this two-way communication process gets tweaked. The last three days we have seen this tweaking by the media houses. Three videos released by military and para military personnel have literally been over used and therefore, misused by the TV channels. I refer to the malicious propaganda by Times Now and India Today channels during prime time on 13th January 2017.
As the proud daughter of an equally proud army veteran, my Dad and I both watched with horror the way the news anchors raved and ranted about the conditions existing in the armed forces and the para military forces. Anand Narasimhan & Tanvi Shukla of Times Now and Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today used strong, vitriolic words about issues they raised on their programs. It left me wondering about the questionable intent behind the questioning. I also felt why do we blame the British for using divide and rule in India. The Indian media has behaved no differently in creating divide amongst the armed forces and para military forces.
Using phrases like “Jawans For Equality”, “Dissent Vs Discipline”, “Save Our Soldiers” and “India Don’t Look Away”, with disparaging & humiliating remarks, the anchors have done tremendous damage to the psyche of the people who protect our country. Sarcastic & negative statements against the leadership and leaders coupled with disrespectfully interruptive questions to the military veterans who were on the program added to the unprofessional behaviour of the anchors.
The COAS, Gen Bipin Rawat held a crisp & professional briefing for the press the same afternoon which was aired by the same channels. The Chief spoke about the “Army – Media” relationship and the impact it can have in creating awareness among the citizens of our country. He also explained, in detail, the “officer – sahayak” relationship in which the sahayak is actually a buddy of the officer and this relationship works in both peace and field tenures. Despite such a briefing and clarification by the COAS, it was appalling to watch one of the anchors ask “Is the soldier treated like a sahayak or a sevak? Why are they ill-treated?”
I would like to bring to the notice of everyone concerned that there are a few things that must be followed when you anchor/engage in a panel discussion.
1. Please do not anchor a panel discussion if you have not done your research and homework about the subject, organization, institution and the panelists.
2. Every panelist invited is a human being first and must be treated with respect and dignity.
3. A channel’s credibility does not increase when you shout, humiliate and disrespect organizations and individuals. Credibility goes up with neutral reporting and constructive critique.
4. The audience will appreciate a good debate with dissenting views if conducted with dignity, not by provocation or insults hurled at the panelists.
5. Last but not the least, media ethics is about responsibility towards country and society. The news must be in public interest not for the vested interest of the news channels. Or politically motivated. While the reason for dwindling ethics of journalism seems as only profit motive, the impact on society is tremendous.
The culture of breaking news has become so prevalent in media that they show half-baked, non-investigated news which have been proved harmful for many section of population.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, “A free press should neither be an ally nor an adversary…. But a constructive critic. The debates on various important issues seem to be biased. They take a side instead of explaining the issue with a neutral stand. Journalism is not about being judgmental about the issues of public importance but about putting the facts truthfully and finding solutions collectively.”
The freedom of expression is a double-edged sword. The media is a potent weapon, use of which depends on the journalists. It can be used for showing concern about society, highlighting the reform needed in society, and giving voice to the unheard. Misusing it for spreading outrageous and hateful content or putting malicious allegations against individuals and organizations does not make it a vehicle of dynamic, everlasting and participatory democracy.
Has the time come to introduce restraining laws to rein in such irresponsible journalism whose intent becomes suspect? Or do we allow our journalists to continue like they did last night and damage national institutions in the name of freedom of expression?
It is time for the 1.25 billion Indians to decide what kind of media they want.
The writer is an entrepreneur; she is an Army child and runs an NGO in Bangalore besides writing.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)