New Delhi September 20 Sabka Bharat, a movement supported by an NGO, ANHAD, organized a convention on ‘Safeguarding the Constitution: Are the Pillars of Democracy Crumbling?’ at Constitution Club, New Delhi on September 19.
The packed hall primarily comprised of journalists and media people. Senior journalists spoke about how the media has lost its objective voice over the years, having been bought over by big businesses. As a result, the issues of common people, whom they ought to represent and safeguard, are being left out by TV channels and newspapers alike, and they unabashedly speak solely in the tongue of the powers that own them. Unless this pattern of media ownership is changed, the problem of businesses owning the voice of journalists will remain, which in turn will be commanded by the ruling government that has a symbiotic relationship with the corporations. And the freedom of press will be only as free as the whim of the current government permits.
One speaker pointed out that the atmosphere of fear among media professionals is quite palpable, and even big names from the print medium have succumbed to the political pressure of the owner-government nexus. One Hindi Daily allegedly sacked 300 journalists at one go for their misdemeanor of not blindly supporting the business line taken by the Daily, which followed the dispensation of the ruling party.This mass sacking did not make the headlines of any paper or channel. Other such sackings were also mentioned which went totally unreported.
They mentioned a channel that was singled out for persecution by various government agencies for including the opposition’s views in their programmes, which, the speakers observed, is the accepted journalistic creed of objectivity and balance in a democratic and just society.
It was observed repeatedly that channels and newspapers are sensationalizing and communalizing trivial matters, and news is reduced to crude, slanted pieces on madarsas, cows, and pseudo-nationalistic views, while issues that the government does not consider convenient to address are completely blacked out. Many journalists found it lamentable that the ‘Godi Media’is no longer finding it pertinent to position on prime time issues that really affect the larger population of the country.
One speaker mentioned how, on the day of Gauri Lankesh’s murder, many news channels totally blacked out the news even though Gauri was from their own fraternity. This, they said, shows that large portions of the media have ceased to function as news channels and are more of advertising agencies for the government and big industrial houses. Today’s newsrooms, it was pointed out by all of them, increasingly suppress the independent and just professional voice, the fourth estate and pillar of the constitution.
The Journalists who spoke included Gurbir Singh, Hartosh Singh Bal, Om Thanvi, Seema Mustafa and Siddharth Vardarajan. Non-scribe speakers were Annie Raja, Gauhar Raza, Manoj Jha, Brinda Karat and Indira Jaisingh. The program was conducted by Owais Sultan.