Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday recalled that the news media had played a pioneering role in India’s struggle against British colonial rule and in strengthening the foundations of democracy in post-Independent India. Over the past many years, the media landscape has transformed profoundly with the advent of electronic media and social media.
Naidu, speaking at the 50th anniversary celebrations of Thuglak, a Tamil magazine, founded by the late Cho Ramaswamy, rued the fact that the media is no longer neutral today. These days, one can hardly get an objective picture of the current happenings or any development by reading a newspaper or watching a single news channel, the vice president regretted.
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Naidu also called upon the media fraternity to do a serious introspection and “curb any unhealthy trend that has affected its credibility.” Expressing concern over the unhealthy trend of mixing news and views, the vice president stated that “slanting stories and providing disproportionate coverage” to certain issues in line with the management’s thinking has become the norm these days.
Instead of giving complete information in an unadulterated manner, a section of the media was deciding what the viewer should watch or the reader should read. “Such a trend is not good for the fourth estate and Indian democracy in the longer run”, Naidu cautioned.
The vice president observed that journalism in the past was treated as a mission and many eminent journalists wielded the pen without any fear or favour. “They never succumbed to any kind of pressure or allurement, nor had they compromised on their integrity and values. They always remained wedded to the core principles of journalism and maintained high standards of accuracy and objectivity,” he said.
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However, Naidu’s notable lament over the state of affairs in the media seems to have echoed certain thoughts submitted by Stuart Allan in his essay titled ‘Hidden in plain sight – journalism’s critical issues’. Allan argues that at any given moment there is a general tacit agreement not to discuss large and uncomfortable facts and he states that these are “troubled times for journalism.” When one juxtaposes Naidu’s text along with Allan’s thought, one finds that the crisis of media in the Indian subcontinent is leading to the danger of journalism losing its place in a democratic order. There is indeed a relentless pull of populism, politics and profits in the way how all forms of media work in India. There are layers of issues associated with the very idea of what is the media now.
At the same time, one should also note that the current trend of “slanting stories and providing disproportionate coverage” is not necessarily caused by or linked to “the management’s thinking” but to the way how identified statist media amplify their blind support to certain undemocratic policies adopted by the ruling regime ending up promoting strident hatred. Moreover, the nation as the media audience is now beginning to literally consume packaged intolerance of the worst kind.