AUTHOR: Jaiveer Singh
(Alumnus of The Lawrence School ,Sanawar)
Often regarded and respected as the 4th and strongest pillar of Democracy, we have seen the electronic mainstream media houses of the largest democracy on Earth fighting for their relevance and failing to prove to the intellectual elite, their significance and integrity!
Though there has been a subtle long drawn process of the use of media to malign the public discourse in a particular direction by the current dispensation in power since 2014, I would like to point out a very recent and contemporary occurring which has convinced me of the fact that the fourth pillar of democracy has completely lost its legitimacy!
On the 26th of January, the world saw the Indian media shouting their lungs out, condemning and questioning the legitimacy of the most peaceful long drawn protest in human history after a minority group of ill-informed and radical protestors/ rioters created havoc in the National Capital. What was most astonishing was the fact that shunning its responsibility to showcase a holistic on-ground picture of all the tractor rallies which were supposed to be conducted on Republic Day, the mainstream media chose to ignore the majority of the peaceful and successful rallies and portrayed a dastardly picture by generalizing a group of anti-social elements as constituting the entire rally! Going on even further, it seemed like the media houses were waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon farmer leaders and hold them accountable as since the last 65 days, they were clearly not being able to question them and were evidently tired of witnessing the goodwill this protest gathered from around the world. We even heard statements from top journalists such as Rajat Sharma asking “farm leaders to call off their agitation and apologies to the nation.” No wonder India’s Freedom of Press rankings have dropped like never before!
While not even a single farmer leader justified the violence and took responsibility for even the minor sections of the entire protests which went rogue or were made to go rogue by certain people in order to portray the protests in a bad light, the media seems to forget that by not questioning the establishment because of whose attitude this situation had come to this extent, it is basically portraying itself as a mouthpiece of the current government. There was unequivocal condemnation of the violence which took place by all stakeholders alike, however, what I fail to understand is as to how are the demands of the farmers who have been out in the cold since months now are being cited as unjustified on the behest of the violence by certain media outlets?
The media of the world’s largest democracy has a big responsibility on its shoulders! Rather than leading by example, it has been described as weak and sold out by the international media outlets time and again. Talking of what just happened on Republic Day again, when events such as these unfold, there are obviously a lot of conspiracy theories which come to light but one should refrain from citing those till they are proven. However, one cannot and should not turn a blind eye to what is visible in black and white and should question all stakeholders responsible. The most appropriate case in point being the role of the ‘Delhi Police’ which comes directly under the control of the Union Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah.
Those who are familiar with Indian Politics would know of the Home Minister as a man of extreme will and determination, to say the least. There have been instances in the past where the Delhi Police has been involved in controversial suppression of freedom of individuals and have still been backed by the Home Minister. The Head of Delhi Police claimed on 25th January that they suspect some anti-social elements would try and create disruption in the protests. My simple question being then why didn’t the police deploy enough forces on ground as a precautionary measure? Why did the police block those routes in the morning which were already agreed upon? How were rioters allowed to move freely till the heart of Delhi, was there no police deployment or that the police were asked not to interfere in order for the protests to go out of control deliberately ?
All these questions should have been asked to the administration as the US media had asked after the 6th January attack. This simply shows that the media is scared to question the government on any possible weakness on their part and is rather in full swing trying to act as a jury pronouncing one side guilty without complete investigation!
Even on ground videos have surfaced all over the internet where reporters are asking cameramen not to shoot police brutalities but only showcase violence by the rioters. This is the kind of selective coverage which is hampering democracy and we must remember that we only have a republic as long as we protect it and definitely sidelining the truth is the greatest disservice which a pillar of democracy can commit!
One does not need to do any detailed research in order to agree or disagree with my opinion, just switch on any News Channel in the evening and you would perhaps yourself get confused between the anchor and the Government representative. It is an anchor’s right to call out the wrong but it is for the public to decide as to what constitutes as wrong and what doesn’t! This is just a simple example on the events of a single day from India, the media houses commit to such submission to the current dispensation almost everyday, involving every second issue there possibly is! We need to realize that real threat to a democracy comes not from voices of protest but from one foundational pillar collapsing! Long live the freedom of the media, but for it to be realized, an entity such as an independent media needs to continue to exist!