Politicisation of Journalism — A game of need to know
Borrowed from the French feudal-societal philosophy, Media is dubbed as the fourth estate, with the erstwhile clergy, nobility and we, the common people being the first, second and third respectively. The fourth estate was always supposed to keep a check on the first 3. But the happenings of the past decade in India have kept some of the earned trust over the past century at bay.
We are at the brink of a hyper-sectarian moment in our country. Today, the consensus on any policy issue raises so much hullabaloo amongst masses on the social media, that the average journalist has enough material to prepare a no-bullshit baseline and start mouthing the public in the media. But its again not a small challenge to keep up as a part of just the job definition of journalism, as the modern day constitutional promise of delivering the who, what, when and where are not enough any more, people also want the how and why ? This is where we have been probably failed in the past years.
The origins of Indian media, being nationalist, have suffered much colonial interferences when they set up shop to reach out to the awaam (common man). Even after independence, during the emergency in 1975, the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had the media on a tight leash. Even under threats of sanctions and budget cuts on advertisements as the major arsenal Indira Gandhi used to threaten the print media, newspapers like The Indian Express and The Statesman fought fearlessly to keep the spirit of press freedom alive. But post emergency began the golden period of Indian media under the next PM Morarji Desai. Many new magazines and Sunday dailies saw the light of the day post the draconian emergency regime.
But the television on came through post 1990’s. News channels were few, nascent and neutral. But soon began the era of a whirlpool of vested political and business interests that were the driving forces of the Indian media. By 2004, when the Congress led UPA government came to power, more and more journalists had begun to cosy up to politicians and business houses. Less journalism and more PR became the emerging functionaries of the journalists. Paid news was as rampant as an epidemic. The November of 2010 exposed before us Radia tapes where nexus between politicians and journalists was revealed. Top-brass journalists including a prominent lady who the Kargil war reportage to her credit were in the line of fire. In the aftermath of 2009 elections win, Kapil Sibal quoted that 150 media houses were owned by individuals affiliated or under the patron of the Congress.
We can now imagine how hard the effort must have been to try and carve a legacy out of the shehzaada of dynasty politics in India, but thanks to some honest to earth people in the industry, we don't have a make-believe image of those politicians who always seek cosmetic image makeovers for rising to power.
The hounds were set free when for the first time the Sonia Gandhi saw a Narendra Damodardas Modi give a battle cry to all his comrades to march to Delhi. A staccato of castigation was launched against Modi pinning the Godhra riots back to him and raising all possible hue and cry to denounce his reputation and eligibility to lead the country as a potential Prime Minister. But alas, friends in pockets but democracy at bay, a nation wasn't fooled when she particularly gone through a lot in one decade. Summer of 2014 shed much flab from the Congress when it came down from 206 seats to a mere 44 seated minority in the Lok Sabha.
But as if faith remained to be rewarded, columnists never quit criticizing Modi and to so much had they pushed it that not only did they lose their own credibility but they also made Modi a hero in the eyes of Indians due to a reverberant belief that he has being wrongfully maligned. TV anchors didn't give up too. Apart from a handful of obstinate, veracious TV journalists who claim their honesty to salt and rain hell fire upon corruption and wrongdoings every night at prime time, most of the channels we switch to are themselves remote-controlled.