Is Indian Media plagued by sensationalism?

Journalism is a medium of collecting, writing and reporting news, and more broadly it includes the process of editing and presenting the news articles. Journalism is not only restricted to publishing news in the newspapers, but also includes, magazines, radio, and television.

Yellow Journalism

Unfortunately, our present Indian Journalism is plagued by sensationalism and wrong reporting. Rather than making people aware of the on goings around the world, it focuses on presenting an exaggerated, distorted and perverted version of the most absurd an insignificant events. This is what is know as “Yellow Journalism”.

The term yellow journalism came to be used in the mid-1890s to characterize the sensational journalism that used some yellow ink in the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. By now, it has become rampant and has taken the form of an epidemic spreading widely in media circles.

“There are many instances of yellow journalism in India. The live coverage of Taj Mumbai terror attack at the cost of national security issues, extensive coverage of Aarushi murder issue at the cost of breach of privacy laws, extensive coverage of Nirbhaya rape issue at the cost of conducting a media trial and prejudice to the accused, and the list is endless.”

Media and Article 19.

In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain, the Supreme Court of India held that Article 19(1) (a), in addition, to guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression, guarantees the right to receive information on matters concerning public interest.

Media nowadays often portrays non-issues as real issues, while the real issues are sidelined. A glimpse at any of Indian news channels would send a shiver down the spine. Rather than publishing real issues that public should be informed about like, the bad economic condition of our country and farmer suicides, there are special 1 hour shows on TV news channel about how Simar has reincarnated as a housefly.

The other major defect of the media is twisting of facts. Media often twists facts to make it look more controversial and interesting.

A very recent example of this is the sensationalization of the death of the student of National Law University, Jodhpur. They created a whole issue out of it calling it a “selfie death” whereas in reality, it was a mere accident and an unfortunate event. Such irresponsible news reporting not only disgusts the viewers, but also aggrieves the already in- grief family.

This is a clear example of how the media has crossed its boundaries to the extent of victimizing and being judgmental of the youth today.

By twisting facts and publishing wrong news, media not only breaches the right to privacy of those who are being wrongly portrayed but is also in breach of the right to receive information of the general public.

Media and Privacy

Recently concerns over striking a balance between the right to information and the right to privacy have been raised, especially, by controversies like the Radia-tapes.

In Rajgopal v. State of Tamil Nadu , the Supreme Court has observed that a citizen has a fundamental right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent. This law, as can known to everyone out there, is not followed by the media.

Media and Politics

Media is often driven by politics and often targets issues which serves as an agenda for political parties in a meticulously well planned manner in the grab of so called “News”. So media nowadays is hand gloves with various political parties working as agents for them portraying an unreal picture and sometimes even sensationalize issues which sometimes lead to a sudden outbreak- outraging a particular section of the society, leading to political unrest and lawlessness in the society.

The Media is termed as the “Fourth Pillar” of Indian democracy. If it has been given such status, it must also abide by the responsibilities that comes with it.

The ultimate question is, who will cure this rot? Can there be any corrective measure? Whenever a politician figure a code of conduct for the press, the usual reaction is always in the negative. There are presentiments that such code would become another stick in the hand of the politician. But it seems there is an earnest requirement of such a code. There should be a code for or at least some standards against which media men can be measured.

About the Author

This article has been authored by Rahul Parashar, Co-Founder & Chief Legal Advisor at LegalNow & Ayushi Sharma, Founding Intern at LegalNow.

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