An Appeal to Indian Journalist Fraternity by a Group of Media persons, released in Chandigarh, 16 March, 2014
In a terse comment, Aam Aadami Party leader Arvind Kejriwal said that a part of the media, particularly some TV channels “sold itself to Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and is indulging in running a propaganda spree in favor of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi”. As has happened earlier in many cases relating to deprived and unprivileged sections of the Indian society, that section of media took an undue offence to the comment that was completely out of proportion, and it launched a virulent campaign against AAP. This section of media is peeved at Arvind Kerjriwal’s remarks that if his party came to power, a punitive action would be taken against those media outlets which have been biased in their news coverage and suppressed the anti Modi news stories projecting his false claim to an ‘unparalleled development of Gujarat’.
During his field tour to Gujarat, Kejriwal started taking on Modi , attempting to expose the chinks in ‘Gujarat Vikas’, which according to him, is a ‘hollow projection’ made with ‘active support’ of a section of media. In what could be called an overreaction, a naked anti-Kejriwal slant became a routine affair in the coverage of some media outlets. It is not difficult to smell from the reports and debates of these media outlets that their journalists (by order from above or own their own) have shamelessly started walking in the footsteps of Hitler’s notorious spin doctor Joseph Goebbels, who also did a stint in journalism.
Some dailies including those priding themselves as ‘ national dailies’ are also carrying selected news stories and pictures aimed at showing Aam Aadami Party in bad light. Some electronic media outlets in their orchestrated debate shows are inviting the BJP, Congress and other anti-AAP politicians and providing them platforms for the use of even abusive language against Kejriwal calling him ‘a liar, opportunist and an autocrat’. They are trying to cow down Kejriwal by repeatedly claiming that he and his party was a “creation of the media’’ suggesting that if they can create AAP they can kill it also. And now they have loaded their news presentation and debates in favor of Modi. This is obviously a biased and propagandistic reportage which no sane professional will agree with. India is a largest democracy of the world where political parties are made and dismantled by people and not by the media which do has an important role but a peripheral one.
By using unconcealed media tactics to paint Kejriwal and his party in black, it would be difficult for the above media outlets to shield themselves behind the proverbial neutrality of the profession, which everyone knows, is easily compromised in this profit oriented age of the present media. Now media is less of a mission, more a business with maximizing profit as its goal. For revenue, the media outlets depend upon advertisements, which mostly come from the corporate sector. On the other hand, to protect and promote their business interests in the Centre and State Governments, the corporate and business houses fund political parties and their candidates in the elections. Hence, an underhand barter system operates among media outlets, business houses and politicians. The bitter truth is that in this kind of atmosphere, attempting to maintain impartiality and objectivity by a media outlet has become an arduous proposition. Hence, instead of attempting to project a ‘holier-than-thou’ image through retaliatory criticism of AAP, the media-outlets should view Kejriwal’s remark in a holistic perspective. And they should understand that AAP catapulted into a discernible political force out of peculiar circumstance crisscrossed by corruption, lawlessness and political despondency. Yes, the media deserves due credit in highlighting its activities which, to some extent, propelled it to a startling victory in the Delhi assembly polls. But it is also fact that by reading the public mood and supporting it, the media also earned credibility on the sly. Credibility, which is blood and breath for any media organization .That is why, the media should not expect ‘an explicit expression of indebtedness and gratefulness’ for highlighting Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign which gave birth to AAP, as it was a part of a bigger democratic upsurge which also brought into focus the independence, credibility and freedom of the media. The motivated campaign on the behest of some political forces or sponsors can jeopardize this hard earned credibility of the media outlets.
In the present state of things when the media managements rarely ignore the power of money and politics, maintaining of impartiality and objectivity has become a very difficult task and the need of the hour is to safeguard the sacred divide between propaganda and journalism. A journalist working on any level and position is duty bound to push back the hand which is eager to choke Citizens’ right to free and unbiased information.
They say it easy to light a candle in normal climate but the brave do so even in gale.
Anil Chamaria, columnist, author and head of Media Studies Group, Delhi
Sidhu Damdami, former Editor, Punjabi Tribune
Rajesh Kumar Verma, Senior Journalist and Media Analyst
Prashant Tondon, Senior TV Journalist
Daljit Ami, film-maker and Chief-in–Editor, TV channel
Daljit Sra, Editor, The Amritsar Times
Chanchal Manohar Singh, Editor-in-Chief, Punjabkhabar.com
Jagtar Singh, Senior Journalist and Author
Hamir Singh, News Coordinator, Punjabi Tribune
Jaspal Singh Sidhu, former UNI Special Correspondent and author
Prof Navjit Singh Johal, former Head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Punjabi University,Patiala
Avaneesh Kumar, Journalist, Media Studies Group
Jetindra Kumar, Senior Journalist