The idea that the media is the fourth pillar of our democracy is so ancient that the statement itself has become platitudinous. In an ideal society, journalists are expected to be crusaders of truth and objectivity. Ravaging through the muck of corruption, they are supposed to present the masses with important and reliable information. Ideally, the journalist should be impartial in covering all the aspects of our society. Ideally, they should also swear by balanced coverage. But unfortunately, these are all just ideal situations. The reality is far away from it.
For quite some time now, news has become commoditised (a detailed analysis here). The mainstream media, in particular, is infamous for constantly going against the very crux of journalism. Owing to corporatisation and advertisements, the selection, treatment and presentation of news is often compromised. However, what appalls me the most is the step-motherly treatment by mediapersons towards some of their own colleagues.
Take the Pankaj Srivastava case, for example. On January 21, the associate editor of IBN-7 claimed in a Facebook post that he was terminated shortly after he voiced his concerns over the channel's coverage of the Delhi elections. He had allegedly sent a message to his deputy managing editor Sumit Awasthi saying that the channel was being unfair to the Aam Aadmi Party and that this went against journalistic principles.
In an interview to Newslaundry, Srivastava has also claimed that ever since Reliance took over the Network 18 group last year, they were instructed not to air "any live speeches of any AAP representative". Interestingly, the president of news at Network 18, Umesh Upadhyay, is the brother of the Delhi BJP unit president Satish Upadhyay.
Unfortunately and expectedly, the mainstream media did not pay any attention to this occurrence. I am yet to encounter a single report from the bigwigs of the media industry on the issue. And this is not the only instance. Even Kanwar Sandhu, a veteran Punjab journalist, recently resigned as the executive editor of The Tribune.
His allegation was strikingly similar to that of Srivastava. According to Sandhu's assertions, the paper has been reduced to a personal propaganda tool for the trustees. NN Vohra, one of the trustees and also the current governor of Jammu and Kashmir, was accused by Sandhu of "using and misusing" the paper. Maybe that's why a modest weekly, KashmirLife, did a story on this issue. So did Scroll.in. The mainstream media, however, once again chose to overlook it.
Interestingly, the Charlie Hebdo attack was widely condemned in our country. There was a flurry of news reports which stressed on how free speech was being attacked in the name of religion.
This raises a vital question. Why was there such low coverage of the blocking of two Telugu channels, TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothi, only because they had criticised the incumbent government? Isn't this an attack on free speech? Maybe here lies the irony. The media, which is supposed to unearth the ugly realities of our democracy, chooses to ignore its own dirty laundry sometimes.
And while important issues like these do not find much space in the mainstream media, trivial things (such as Obama's favourite snacks) are given plenty of coverage. The American President's recent visit to India had the media going bonkers over every moment that he spent here. Every handshake, hug, smile and even attire was scrutinised. Is this the definition of breaking news? Is this the kind of information that will help us to build a better country for ourselves? I leave that for you to answer.