Sunday, 3 May 2009

Indian Media - A Sprained Fourth Limb?

Media industry empowers its workforce to spread awareness, generate opinion and induce change; whether it is positive or negative impact that is created depends on the content carried. In the race to make money, it seems like Indian media has thrown caution to the winds. Analysing from across the seas only a small aspect of this carelessness was evident, but a closer inspection at home brought me face to face with the significant amount of violence, sex and glamour that spans news media; without thought to the probable influence on the adolescent and the impressionable young. Indian media also carries unabashed biased content on criminal offences, jeopardising fair trials, if audience coverage increases.

Recently, a popular English daily of the country carried a column titled “Water Cooler Moments” with explicit content on flogging, spanking and violence as increasing “bonding” during sexual activities. The piece mentioned “research” that corroborates such indulgence. Sex in India is not an openly discussed topic either in schools or at homes. However, there is a lot of exposure that teenagers have to sex via media. This intrigues teenagers who are increasingly engaging in different acts of physical intimacy without much thought, understanding or safety. Imagine the impact that columns such as the one under discussion, on “increasing pleasure”, can have if youngsters really try to attempt “bonding in bondage” either consensually or forcefully (especially in cases of forced sex).

This column is supposedly meant to bring forth overheard “interesting” conversations, but such content is blatantly lackadaisical. Furthermore, this column is regularly published right next to the “Open Space” column, which has a large young reader base. Having content as it did, almost positioned the piece to target the youth as the prime audience! I must admit that I had not read the newspaper and was pointed to this article by a friend. I was horrified and on pointing out the objectionable content to the newspaper’s editor, I received no response. It is really sad to know that Indian media professionals are abusing their privilege of “freedom of speech and expression”, a constitutional right, without acknowledging that they are capable of shaping the nation’s future.

The recent rape case of the American girl is an incident that highlights media’s liking for creating frenzy. (I would like to admit that the reports also agitated me). The first few days post the incident Indian dailies carried front page articles on this issue. Pre and post facto details, the statement of girl and suggestive comments by parents of the accused; were all published without censorship. Additionally, the accused’ statement saying that they did not flee the city as they did not think that the girl would “cry rape” made bold headlines. Printing such statements could signal to youngsters that it is alright to commit crimes as long as they are not caught; but on the part of media there was no curtailing. Once the news had lost its initial excitement, all coverage was dropped. The victim’s sufferings, the accused’ innocence and the police’s findings; nothing was deemed important enough to be brought out in the open.

There was no balance in the reporting of this incident. Responsible journalism would have been in reporting the facts in full, producing complete statements of both the victim and the accused (as opposed to publishing just the victim’s statement), refraining from publishing the strong opinionated comments of parents of the accused and then following through with the case. I also opine that the identity of the accused should have been protected until the case had closed. If found guilty, the media should have then increased awareness of the punishment meted out and promoted the judiciary’s efforts of setting an example in order to avert such horrifying crimes in future.

The legal luminary, Fali S Nariman had once said, “Free and robust reporting, criticism and debate contribute to public understanding of the rule of law, and to a better comprehension of the entire system. It also helps improve the quality of that system by subjecting it to the cleansing effect of exposure and public accountability.”

The gigantic Indian media is providing apathetic exposure to the youth and publishing without any responsibility itself; thus it remains doubtful if it will perform its function of improving “quality of the system”. With a weak “fourth limb of a democratic system”, media as called by GN Ray the Chairman of the Press Council of India, will this democracy be able to strongly stride and take on the world is a question that we need to address. Just as India needs to demand accountability from its politicians, Indians need to ensure that media begins to acknowledge its duties. The nation needs to awaken and smell the coffee!
PS: Maybe I spoke to soon, there was an aricle in the Mumbai Mirror on the rape case this morning. The balnced view is still questionable as the language still sensationalises the issue. The piece can be found on Interestingly, Mumbai Mirror calls itself a tabloid newspaper!


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Check out these links..!! On one end the media is abusing its power and on the other end, the media is not given access at all. What do you think about media not gaining access to cover certain events and the fundamentals of these media companies turning to "" Bad News is News"..!!!!