India Slipping on Press Freedom Index
On April 21, Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) released their annual press freedom index which ranked Indian media at 142 among 180 nations, slipping two spots. The RSF highlighted “a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic and a country’s ranking in the Index”.
The focus of most Indian media houses has drastically shifted from reporting facts and analysis to endorsing what ‘sells’. The coverage is only TRP-driven. In the process, these channels blatantly colour issues with communalism and do not mind broadcasting fake news. Consequently, it omits the significance
that crucial issues like education and healthcare must receive.
Along with the principles of journalism, the basic tenets of humanity have also evaded them and their actions. For instance, this month, while covering Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic death, Aaj Tak employed words and intentions that have hung all of our heads in shame.
The Lost Meaning of Debates
In October 2019, Ramit Verma, founder of a popular YouTube channel, monitored 202 debates conducted by four mainstream media houses namely, Aaj Tak, News 18, India TV and Zee News. He laid bare astonishing statistics:
Debating involves views from all aspects of the spectrum. However, the Indian debating culture has gone from constructive deliberations to imposing opinions and cheerleading the government. From Arnab Goswami not letting any dissenting individual voice opinions and screaming at them for somehow doing so to Sudhir Chaudhary bringing in the most absurd logic to validate the government’s actions to Deepak Chaurasia heckling a student mid-debate, reaping international criticism; Indian media is often labelled as ‘BJP propaganda machine’.
Threatening Voices Who Dissent
The current regime is suffocating all those voices who dare to dissent against its functionings. This month, Rana Ayyub, the author of Gujarat Files, found herself on the global list of journalist facing an urgent threat, as released by Time Magazine and One Free Press Coalition. UP Police filed an FIR against Supriya Sharma, the Executive Editor of The Scroll, for chronicling the poor condition of people of Varanasi, PM Modi’s Parliamentary Constituency. In April 2020, an FIR was filed against The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan for making an ‘objectionable comment’ on CM Yogi Adityanath. He surfaced how Yogi had defied lockdown and took part in n public event.
Media is one of the four founding pillars of any democracy. Just like the judiciary acts as our guardian of fundamental rights, the media serves as a fact-baring, analysis-propelling, constantly questioning engine. More than ever, today, it is urgent to read the news that tells you the reality as it is. And read from multiple sources to know more and better. We must always remember how crucial a role the German press played in reinforcing Hitler’s propagandistic visions.
(Published on June 04, 2020)