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Media adharma

Media adharma

Author: MC Joshi
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 31, 2002

I was struck by the letter, 'Media struck' (August 22), in which Mr M Ratan rightly says there are sections of the Fourth Estate-comprising of an "all-too-familiar group of secular-left oriented editors and so-called progressive intellectuals"-who work with missionary zeal against the present Government under the garb of secularism. One need only look at the English language 'national' newspapers and watch 'independent' private television news channels. For them, even a single word of appreciation for the Government is taboo and finding fault even with its constructive work is journalistic dharma.

TV channels are far ahead of the print media in this respect, given its advantage of round-the-clock access to viewers' drawing rooms and bedrooms. TV's miracle men who claim to present events 'as they happen, when they happen and where they happen' are mostly engaged in speculation and crystal gazing about the things yet to occur. Self-appointed prosecutor, jury and judge, they hold trials in front of the studio cameras and deliver judgments. There is one straight-talking programme which is anything but straight talk, making fun as it does of everybody. Another is a fight of sizeable proportions in which all (including anchors) take on the ruling establishment. A couple of dozen men and women of our metro culture, along with secular-left oriented journalist-cum-intellectuals-who are far away from the ground realities-project themselves as representatives of the one billion people of the country and ridicule anything and everything on their agenda.

In 'discussions', anchors put words into your mouth. If you refuse to toe the line, you are cut short, not responded to or consigned to a 'commercial break'. Adhering to their line is the pre-condition for a smooth sailing. If you happen to belong to a different kettle of fish and come prepared to face rough weather, you are pulled up, ridiculed and even humiliated. Highlighting the negative, suppressing the positive, creating hype, sensation and confusion and even injecting poison into perfectly debatable issues have become the hallmark of private TV channels.

The unrestrained style of some sections of the media (in the name of freedom of information and expression) has been objected to by the political class and other sections of society. Matters have reached such a stage that, on August 20, the full Lucknow bench of the Allaha-bad High Court hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute case, issued a warning to newspapers and various TV channels against publicising any opinion, televising interviews of parties or the counsel or publishing any article concerning the merit of the case as that might 'affect the public mind.' In a separate order, the bench, specifically naming an English language newspaper, observed that if anything published hampered fair trial or 'poisons public mind', it would amount to contempt by the press.

It was in a three-point directive that the bench restrained the newspapers from publishing any article, opinion or interview in the matter and also prohibited TV channels from televising interviews in respect of the sub judice Ayodhya issue. These were rightly seen as undermining judicial authority and amounting to interference in the administration of justice.

Sections of the media are misusing their freedom. It is time to say enough is enough and to take remedial measures. Freedom is not a license for anarchy. One is sure that enlightened voices in the media would agree, since the credibility of the entire Fourth Estate has been put on the line by certain irresponsible sections.

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