The Sad Demise of Media Ethics

By Mansi Soni

(15/10/2020 18:00 IST)

The consistent and comprehensive coverage of SSR case and later of entire drug nexus by our highly admired Indian media is praiseworthy! Isn't it? After all, they have been creating history. In coming future, if people like you and me happen to utter some words in its praise, then what will they refer to?

Well, till now, you might have witnessed huge deluge of such sarcastic and hilarious memes on social media. But isn't this issue seem a threat to our democracy? The issue is not about untimely demise of a multitalented actor or about unwarranted demolition of Ranaut's banglow or about unsurprising drug nexus surfaced in film industry. The concerned authorities are already probing all this. But, what has remained unchecked is the unethical conduct of our media houses.

In the mad race for so called TRPs, our educated and unbiased journalists (at least what they are 'supposed' to be), have ruthlessly trodden all their teachings of journalism down their feet! Resorting to sensational headlines, leaking sensitive details, harshly breaching one's privacy, media houses touched new levels of insensitivity and displayed sheer lack of humanity and journalistic ethics.

At a time when the whole nation is grappling with multiple crisis, be it rapidly surging COVID-19 cases or nation-wide farmers' protest or Indo-China border tensions, or high-scale job losses, our mainstream media is busy in chasing actresses' cars! Rather than making people aware of the on goings around the world, it focuses on presenting an exaggerated and distorted version of the insignificant events. They portrays non-issues as real issues, while the real issues are completely being sidelined. A glimpse at any of Indian news channels would send a shiver down the spine!

No doubt, sometimes media mention farm bills, Sino- Indian clashes and so on, but such coverage is just 3-4 per cent to 10 per cent of the total. Sadly, the bulk of the coverage goes to discussing drugs, nepotism, politics, etc.

There is no doubt in the fact that media reach to the people directly and instantly which no other state or non-state actors can. But it's also relevant to bear in mind that their instant impact are 'irreversible'. Recall 'fake sting operation' case of 2007. A school teacher of a government school in central Delhi, named Uma Khurana, was mercilessly thrashed by hundreds of angry parents and protesters. Why? Because a TV news channel, named Live India, aired a fake sting operation accusing her of forcing students into “red light” jobs. On the basis of the FIR and media coverage, the Delhi government had initially suspended and then terminated her from service. Later, she filed a defamation case against channel and its CEO (Sudhir Chaudhary).

She had been subjected to different kinds of mental agony, strain, harassment, humiliation and earned a bad name in the eyes of the public and society, Khurana alleged in her petition. Though, later she was proven innocent, but entire episode had traumatized her! Do you think she would ever be able to recover everything? Media reporting helps in forming quick public opinion up to a great extent. This gives media additional responsibility to be ethical in their conduct. Isn't it?

Now, here mounts a valid question that what exactly has plagued India Media? The answer lies back in 1990s. The present mainstream media, without an ethical compass and without a basic commitment to voicing truth, is an outcome of the path to profit-driven coverage that was initiated with the 1990s-era media liberalization.

This rapid transformation in the post-liberalization climate led to the fundamental change in the nature of mainstream media, on one hand creating tremendous opportunities for profits, launching careers, and seemingly offering variety, and on the other hand, catalyzing the consolidation of media power into the hands of capitalist class. Resultantly, as per the reports of DataLEADS and Reporters Without Borders, India is one of the biggest media markets!

Moreover, a number of commercial media channels are owned by politically affiliated people. For example, Subhash Chandra, BJP MP owns the Zee Network including channels Zee News, Wion, etc.

The interplay of media, profits, and politics has meant that the media uncritically circulate the agendas of the political-capitalist classes. That's exactly happening these days. Don't you think we are being deviated from real issues of our country?

The Media is termed as the “Fourth estate" of Indian democracy. If it has been given such status, shouldn't it also abide by the responsibilities that comes with it?

About Authors.

Mansi Soni

Desk Editor

References.

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