On one hand violence against journalists is rising, no job guarantee, lobbyism, political patronage, internal issues, stress, no freedom of expression and on the other hand, many unions and associations mushroomed with the claim to protect the rights of journalists. In fact, India ranks ninth in a list of the twenty deadliest countries for journalists.
More than ten journalists have been killed, some died due to various reasons, and many faces death threats on a regular basis. Political correspondents exposing corruption pay the highest price. These days even the job of journalists is decided by political groups, no one is independent in his/her expression.
Journalists need basic dignity, liberty to speak, and courage to show truth but these are remote possibilities. Social media IT cells are deployed to the trash and harass those journalists who talk against the establishment and speak for people.
Media is the fourth pillar of democracy and it cannot be trodden. There was a campaign on social media called #journalismwithoutfear, they asked the media people to share their stories of courage and how they kept going in the face of fear. Their aim was to make India a better and safer place for journalists. Hardly any journalist participated in this campaign because it was bait.
What happened after that campaign? Did you ever see any independent and fearless journalists getting that liberty? Some noises were there for some time, and now everyone has almost forgotten about it.
More disturbingly, India features in the list of 13 high-impunity countries where a tremendously large proportion of such murders have remained unsolved, according to a 2016 CPJ report. Most journalists who have been murdered for their work covered politics and corruption. Another community, which has been targeted, is that of Right to Information (RTI) activists.
Death is the ultimate price journalists, writers, and whistleblowers pay for challenging powerful vested interests or for expressing dissent. And while such murders represent the most extreme form of attack on journalists and writers, less extreme forms of attacks such as death threats and abuses are common. The advent of social media has only worsened the problem, with women journalists facing the brunt of the attacks on social media. When journalists raise such issues, they are often told that the rise in such abuses or attacks at least partly reflects the declining credibility of the Indian media.
However, the reach of Indian media over the past few decades has been accompanied by greater trust in it, data from successive rounds of the World Values Survey show. It is nobody’s case that Indian journalists are infallible, but the long-term trends suggest that their credibility has been raising over time.
As the charts illustrate, trust in the Indian media has risen sharply since the mid-1990s, when the state monopoly over the broadcast news medium was broken. Confidence in the press was higher in India than in several other countries surveyed, the data shows, as we reached 2019, the media completely lost its credibility and it remained a political mouthpiece. India has hardly been a harbour for journalists.
For the past few years, reporters and editors have faced harassment, pressure, and threats from vested interests in the government as well as private ones. A number of them have even been killed for performing their duty or voicing an opinion. No wonder India is the third-most dangerous place to be a journalist, behind war-torn Iraq and Syria. Aiming of women journalists as ‘soft targets’ of those exposing intolerance of others’ views. The freedom of expression by the Press needed legal protection in the current climate of intimidation of presspersons.
The media should be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and the public. The mainstream media’s independence is currently being questioned, and see how ultra-nationalism has dominated the political narrative, refusing to accept dissent. In recent years the media has also lowered the quality of India’s public dissertation. Media expansion has led to a shrinking of the public sphere, resulting in the spread of elitist and socially conservative values.
The media is divided in religion caste and creed, some publication house and media channels go random against minorities, and some claims to be leftists and attack Hindu upper class in this Hindu Muslim era of journalism, Dalit magazines turns a spotlight on India’s low-caste plight. The readers too are divided into these lines. Apart from these divisions, some media houses got mortgaged to powers. The true test of a vigorous democracy is the independence of its media. Over the past few years, our media has become the mouthpiece of the party in power. Coupled with the fact the corporate owners of media houses share close links with the government, the Indian media have tragically lost its voice.
India has over 400 news channels in various languages and another 150 channels are awaiting clearance. The South Asian country also has tens of thousands of newspapers and magazines. But the quality of Indian journalism is poor, as evidenced by the fact India ranks 136 among 180 countries in the index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, an NGO. When it comes to press freedom, India fares worse than even countries like Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.
If you notice, we don’t see much criticism in the media against government and policy failures, Prime Minister and his team have the ability to completely dominate the media’s agenda. The media is bound to only react to the news agenda offered by the government, rather than investigate its activities independently. Read any big newspaper there are hardly any bylines, some newspapers have dropped writing editorials, some newspapers randomly publish news provided by DGIPR or press trust of India, they do not get in investigative stories. What more do you expect when the media industry is dominated by such big players of corporate industry and political parties?