MEDIA & SELF REGULATION
The Newly-appointed Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice Markandey Katju has made certain pertinent observations about the Media.
Many of his observations are valid and I do agree with his observations. But, some are gross generalizations. I do not agree with them.
First and Foremost, it is essential in India to segregate the media into two distinct varieties. The Politically polarized Media and the Neutral Media. We must clearly distinguish between them. The facilities available to the Neutral media must be much more than those available to the Politically Polarized media.
Many news Papers and TV Channels are clearly owned by Political Parties, or their leaders or their henchmen. Their money power is therefore enormous. Their Political clout too is enormous. Their views will necessarily be one sided, favouring their Political bosses and mentors. So, their presentation of even the same NEWS – will be POLES APART – compared to the neutral media. Almost each Political Party has news Papers and TV channels.
Most of the SLANTED NEWS, Twisted News etc – come from the Polarized Media. In case of some of these news papers and TV channels – most of their news may be biased, either less or more or totally. Some news are deliberately BLACKED OUT. Some news are deliberately FOCUSED. Some news are so badly twisted – that we will feel (for an example) that some how the murderer is the victim and the murdered is the culprit. In this aspect, I am totally with Justice Katzu’s assessment.
The Neutral Media – is far, far better in this respect. But, the neutral media needs much more freedom and Protection of the state, the Judiciary etc – than is available today. They also must be given more facilities at cheaper rates. The Neutral Media has to function in a hostile, even violent atmosphere – to secure real, factual, well documented news and present them on their Media. The Political class is not their best friend and therefore – India needs to make further laws to protect the neutral media from the Political class. At the same time, more screening and scanning of the Politically Polarized Media is also essential.
Justice Katzu says - “…the tendency is to brand all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.” In this observation, I think, I am not with Justice Katzu. I have not seen media – whether neutral media or even the politically Polarised media –with probably a few exceptions – doing any thing like what Justice Katzu has said.
There is no attempt by the majority of Media to present all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers. Let us face the facts. 99% of Muslims in India are all peace loving and non-violent. If you say, it is 99.99%, I will be more than willing to say, YES.
We love an Abdul Kalam, We love an Aaamir Khan, We love a Shabanaa Azmi, We love a Dileep Kumar, We love a Rehman and so many other Indian Muslims. There are so many illustrious Indians among Muslims – and we are all proud of them. Just from memory, we can fill this whole article with names of some of these most illustrious Indian Muslims.
Except mad men, no one can call ALL MUSLIMS of our country as terrorists and bombers. Let us go one step further. Even in Pakistan, our great western neighbor, – I am sure that - about 99% of the Muslims are just as peace loving as Indians.
But, the problem comes with the balance 1%, sir. People who come from across the border with explosives and terrorist plans, and people who are undergoing trainings in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan etc - are all Muslims with Muslim names and the media can only project them that way. That unfortunately may give the impression to some oversensitive people that media are branding all Muslims of our country as terrorists and bombers. There is no such branding. There can not be also.
Let us look at the other violent people in India. The Shri Ram Sene, The Bhagat Singh Sena and – may be a few more are also there. These people will have either Hindu Names and Sikh names. They can even take a few Photos with some Hindu or Sikh saints or politicians – who may not be aware of their background at all. And, these people show their violent colour on unsuspecting people.
For this reason - Can we brand all Hindus and Sikhs as terrorists and as violent, law less people. Definitely not. But, yes, some fools do coin terms like Hindu terrorism, right wing Hindu terrorism and so on – just to neutralize terms like Islamic terrorism which are prevalent in some Nations.
We must see the stupidity in all these terms. We must refrain from associating terrorism and violence with religion – per se. Just for a moment, let us look at Afghanistan. The non-violent, peace loving Afghanistan is battling the violent people over there. It is so very obvious. The efforts of the entire International community is to ensure that the Peace loving Afghanistan wins over the violent people there.
Terrorism or violence is Individualistic and is basically an Ego Problem of the Individual or the organization. But, terrorism must be handled firmly. Media is bound to go to the roots of the terrorists and their links in India and project all that through the media. We must not be oversensitive to it. But, if any small section of the Press and Media is actually doing what Justice Katzu has observed – branding a religion as such - they can even be banned and closed altogether. The state will be right in doing that.
Thirdly - Justice Katzu says, “The real issues are terrible economic conditions in which 80% of our people are living- poverty, unemployment, lack of housing and medical care etc.” I am with Justice katzu in this observation. But, here also – Neutral media scores far better than the Polarized media in this aspect. The polarized Media takes an exception and presents it as the rule.
A well run state may be presented as an ill-run one and vice versa. One controversial example is Gujarat. Is there development or is it not there? Forget Politics when dealing with developmental issues. If media combines Politics and developmental issues – they present the most confusing Picture.
On this point – we can also say – one more significant slant in media. For Most English Channels – News means, news of Delhi and Bombay. It is very, very, very rare to cover news of other places. Had they covered KCR and his speeches in Telangana, from a few years back – they could have understood and projected him in proper light. Probably, the Telangana Agitation would have taken some other turn, if the persons steering it – were properly analyzed by Media. Media is also hesitant to project News of some other Politicians and Political parties – God Knows what is the reason. Many Politicians and their innate intolerant and violent nature should have been exposed by media more vigorously. And, the state and Judiciary must protect media, especially the neutral media, in this attempt.
In a nut shell – there is no Balanced News – of all regions of India. We need that from the media.
Dr.Abdul Kalam had presented how Israeli News papers report Positive news and Negative News – in one of his writings. Positive news are front paged and bold. Negative news are some where in the interior in small corners. I am definitely impressed with what our ex president had said – and I feel, there is need for our press and electronic media also to present news in such Positive format. But, our media does the Opposite.
I have stopped reading news papers for that reason. Many spiritual and social thinkers in India also advise that one must not start his day with a news paper reading. If you feel so – read it after lunch time. Not at the start of the day. You will read of rapes, murders, thefts, decoities, Political plots and all sorts of negative news at the start of the day – in head lines – and your whole mindset becomes negative for the day.
There are many good things happening in India too. There are many people in India doing great things for India’s development. They do not receive any attention at all in the media. There is a huge need to present this positive side of India. While on this topic – we must also say that there are many wonderful Muslims in India, who are doing great work for the country. Present them to correct the impression in the minds of some people, about media being biased against Muslims. It is necessary.
Most often, we see movie stars and Cricketers. They fill media screens for too long a time. You may not see the Prime Minister or the Principal Opposition leader for as long as you see a Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan. And, that, on a national News Channel! And what is the great News you see of them? Nothing almost.
The serials (or soaps) in some of the Media are especially disgusting. Most serials are polygamous invariably. Most serials present too many women villains – plotting their next crime in atrociously cruel manner. I don’t know what Justice Katzu thinks of them. But, I think, if a serial presents more than one woman as villain – it must be banned. I have seen some real life women behaving exactly like these soap villains. Likewise – presenting most Police officers in the cruelest fashion may actually make them so. Media must present more Police officers as upright, intelligent and law-abiding.
All in all – Justice Katzu has spurred a debate. It must be continued – and debated at length – so that some much needed reforms take place.
Media – at the end – must be acknowledged as the best protection for People – from Politicians, Rowdies, Police and any others who try to exercise undue power over them. Therefore, Media must never come under Government Control – but must have an effective self regulating mechanism – with primacy for Neutral Media.
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