This week, like every year, we celebrated our most cherished ideal as media professionals. Freedom. The speech delivered by NDTV Senior Editor Maya Mirchandani at the University of Kashmir was worth a listen. She raised certain curious – and serious – questions about the quantum of freedom media is enjoying in India. Her speech could be better followed in the background of the paper presented by NDTV chief Prannoy Roy at the RedInk Awards at Mumbai Press Club wherein he lamented what he calls as `The Tabloidization of Indian News'.
Concerns are grave. As we claim to uphold freedom, the question of responsibility recoils on us. A new breed of militant journalism renders genuine professionals pale in comparison and the trend is sinister. The journalism of muck-raking, of mud-slinging, of humiliating those you apparently `invite' to speak out has smeared the face of journalism in India. If earlier such make of journalism was presumed to be the second most infamous profession (after prostitution), the spin doctors are working tirelessly to push it a notch up to make it figure first.
Though we have no solutions to offer, but we can at least start contemplating solutions. Declaring this hooliganistic form of journalism as a punishable form of offence may not be too unrealistic.
When anti-state activists are immediately actioned upon for making hate speeches, why let off those who technically `host' the TV shows but actually do and profess violence on the screen. If there are acts and sections in the book of law against all anti-social elements in the society, why can't those who foster acrimony, breed tension and cause disorder in the society qualify as criminals. If a politician is booked for fanning communal flames, how can a journalist who grunts invectives on a public platform to earn himself a good TRP get away with this act. No civilized society can allow such hate-mongering go on unabated. It's like a virus that is corrupting the whole media not slowly, but speedily.
A trend started by some has been followed by the rest. Now many news channels are in this business of `Tabloidization' that has made broadcast journalism rise to a new low. These news anchors don't just suggest, they dictate. They don't follow a case, they pronounce the decree.
The most tragic part of the story is that these theatre artists set the agenda for India. They feed the political system of a country and lead its rulers whichever way they want. What should have been denounced as a mania for cheap publicity is ironically hailed as journalism of courage.
The bug is growing fast and unless the growth is checked, it will consume the whole institution of media. By then a very few will be left there to celebrate the Freedom Day.