Since 2014, media-spread propaganda and influential people funding media houses divided news media into parts; while some have a pro stance on Modi and his governance, others never fail to criticise him. Now, with the 2019 general election inching flower, the media and politics are set to become an even knotty cocktail as we see a few media veterans all set with both broadcast and multimedia news ventures. While in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls Arnab Goswami is coming up with a Hindi version of Republic TV, Congressman Kapil Sibal financed Harvest TV also known as HTN News.
Recently launched Harvest TV was later stopped from being aired and Sibal on Monday alleged that the central government was pressuring cable and direct-to-home networks to stop the airing. The new channel is owned by Veecon Media & Broadcasting that already has licences of English, Hindi and other regional language channels. The new venture will see the return of high profile journalists Barkha Dutt, Karan Thapar, and Punya Prasun Bajpai; Dutt, a consultant for the channel, will anchor a prime show and so will Thapar. Prominent TV anchors such as Seemi Pasha and Vineet Malhotra are also expected to be onboard. Reports are also around of former ABP News anchor Bajpai being a part of the Harvest Hindi.
“News media at international-level elections declares which political party they are supporting; however, the same doesn’t happen in India. I believe that news media should always be impartial — neither in favour nor against any party. We welcome the newly launched Harvest TV. Media persons should actively participate in politics.”
Senior journalist and news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to AV and stated, “News Media should always play a neutral role whatever may be the circumstances. If a news media supports one political party and campaigns for it, it is unhealthy for the ‘free press’ and democracy. If a politician becomes the owner of a news media, nothing more can be harmful than this.”
In 2018, the exit of two senior journalists named Punya Prasun Bajpai and Abhisar Sharma of ABP (Amrit Bazaar Patrika) news channel made enough drama into the industry; as alleged, they had to resign for speaking much against the BJP government schemes ‘showcasing how people’s life still survive on basic needs’. However, after their resignation, it was also reported that two other channels, one with Punya Prasun Bajpai and the other one with Abhisar Sharma were supposed to go on air on October 2 and October 15, 2018, with the help of heavy funding from Congress. Now, as per political experts, the recently launched Harvest TV is considered to be a platform to supplement the election campaign of Congress for 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well as to boost Rahul Gandhi’s image building process answering as to why he is the most promising prime ministerial candidate.
Senior journalist Samar Khadas expressed, “News media at international-level elections declares which political party they are supporting; however, the same doesn’t happen in India. I believe that news media should always be impartial — neither in favour nor against any party. We welcome the newly launched Harvest TV. Media persons should actively participate in politics.”
Journalism might be just a profession for some; however, it’s a source of information for many. The country’s population ideologically must depend on non-partisan media persons who presents the reality on its original form and not in lure of the benefit from a political party. A downfall of media ensures the downfall of a country and unfortunately, all the major political parties including Congress and BJP have tried to sway the media houses for their own favour. However, it is high time that the Indian media houses should realise this and work towards re-establishing an atmosphere of free and independent journalism.
An impartial, objective and neutral and fearless media is the basic requirement for the success of democracy and the parallel neutral news media is constantly working or struggling to keep the soul of free press alive. Senior journalist and Asst. Editor at Jay Maharashtra Manoj Bhoyar said, “After 2014, we can see an increasing number of incidents where extremist organisations and individuals following their ideology have been in action suppressing voices against the government through the murders of rationalists like Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh etc. Through a systematic agenda, journalists who seem to be a threat to their agenda are thrown away or compelled to resign. If journalists who are adhered to democratic values collectively raise their voice, to what extent they will succeed in their attempts is a big question.”
“Journalists at every level are attempting to raise their voices but because of certain pressure from the authorities, their voices are being unheard. At the time of elections, paid news will be rampant across all media. The inclination to any particular party or person is not done openly but it secretly goes at the same time. However, maximum journalists like me try to be independent and don’t promote any particular ideology and try to be neutral but as the channels are controlled by industrialists, their political inclination is imposed on the channel and thus on the journalists,” Bhoyar added.
Democracy cannot be successful without Free Press. Free Press, the fourth pillar of the democracy, is essential as it is the voice of the people but the media shall not fall as the victim to some monetary or any other temptations and shall keep on serving with honesty to people. Talking about how news media houses must have a clear ideological stand, senior journalist Shilpa Deshpande said, “Press is not supposed to involve in staunch support or to criticise any side. News media is obliged to report stories without any bias approach. Media must not work as an advocate. In 2014, media houses supporting Modi reflected in the voter mandate but this time, the situation is different. The intention of Sibal behind financing the TV channel must be disclosed.”
“News Media should always play a neutral role whatever may be the circumstances. If a news media supports one political party and campaigns for it, it is unhealthy for the ‘free press’ and democracy. If a politician becomes the owner of a news media, nothing more can be harmful than this.”
Media is capable of changing the pattern of election campaigns as it gives a single common platform for a pluralistic content along with the linked pros and cons with almost every issue covered through interactivity and generated discourses.
Regretting how the real journalism is taking a backseat, founder of web news portal MaxMaharashtra, Ravindra Ambekar asserted, “The journalists are apparently being divided not only on political inclination but they are also acting at the micro level to enforce their own ideologies and simultaneously trying to criticise others. Personal or political agendas are being run and pre-prejudiced content has been disseminated among people. This should be seen as a big threat to national integrity thereby affecting our social fabric. The fourth pillar of democracy seems shaken and soon could diminish.”
“The neutral, independent, and ideal journalism is losing its voice and its incredibility seems to be in threat. The journalists belonging to some particular groups are highly intolerable. The divisive politics has even divided the media. The investigative journalism is dying,” Ambekar added.
Talking about how Media, politics, and elections are intertwined together and media platforms have become the essential ground for the discussion of political narratives and discourse, Freelance Journalist from Bangalore Asmita Kundu stated, “Mainstream media and social media have always been a strong influencer for the Indian politics as we could see its direct impact on the 2014 election result. Be it the strategy or the stalwart supporters, who brought success for BJP in 2014, but the question remains the same — will that do the same in 2019?”
She went on saying, “If we dig deeper into the matter, Modi government was dominating the social media and a few media houses so far, but recent incidents like Priyanka Gandhi’s entry to politics has certainly turned many heads. Even Mamata Banerjee’s very recent mega opposition rally in Kolkata has become the talk of the town (read media). Let’s wait and see that who shifts the gear at the ultimate moment and who rules the upcoming election.”
Keeping a similar tone, Freelance Journalist from Mumbai Aditya Rao stated, “I believe that the urban voters today are well aware of what they are voting for and what do they expect. However, rural votes which happen to be the deciding margin will play a pivotal role in 2019. It will be interesting to see if Rahul’s farm loan waivers will be able to take over the Modinomics and the BJP’s pitch to increase the MSPs. Everything aside, the spread of channels and other media organisations in support of BJP are much higher than what Congress is doing. From the media support point of view, the odds are still in favour of BJP.”