Media Freedom, People & Government

Speaking at the a lecture on media freedom and responsibility, organized by the News Broadcasters Association, the Information & Broadcasting Minister of India, Mr. Arun Jaitley, opined that the government was not in favour of a cap on advertising on TV or print media, which was proposed by the TRAI (Telecommunication Authority of India). The minister unfortunately gave a miss to the interests of the consumers, the readers of newspapers and viewers of television news/programmes. It is such a torture for the readers and viewers that the government has to step in some day to protect their interests, save them the suffering on a 24×7 basis. Is a newspaper nothing more than a bunch of soft porn, depicting the female anatomy from every possible angle of the camera? Is a newspaper nothing more than a bundle of advertisement pages, wasting precious newsprint made of wood/bamboo etc? Is the TV a box for noisy advertisement all the day, misleading gullible viewers to buy products that have doubtful properties? How is a Panmasala good for health unless certified so by the m/o Health or the WHO? Does it not create dental health problems, asthma or cancer? Does it contain the ingredients advertised? Is it a food product or mouth-freshner? Can anything be sold in the name of a mouth-freshner?It is just for illustration, otherwise the same is the case with almost every unbranded product or service covering education, health and other fast moving consumer goods. The aggressive marketing through newspapers and TV is injurious to consumer interests. It turn palpably dangerous when it intrudes into sensitive areas like issues of faith, culture, social mores, politics, financial matters, investments, security, defence, strategic planning, research & development in all sectors etc. Newspaper editorials stand reduced to advertorials and should better be avoided for protecting one’s mental health. Any honest survey of the efforts of newspapers to curtail readers’ freedom of thought and expression would become clear if the comments omitted under the guise of being moderated and overplaying of those suiting the commercial or political agenda of the media house/journalist/editor. The “guided” publication of such selected comments gives away the objectivity and neutrality of the Fourth Estate, which is nothing more than the Fifth Column of vested interests and lobbies in India today.

The Minister is too liberal to the media at the cost of the citizen. Democracy is not Rule of the Media. The Indian media has long been governing surreptitiously. It exercised power that even ministers feared. It has spoil them. Among many reasons, one was the gap in the educational standards of the journalists and the ministers. A single word “corruption” was enough to tame a recalcitrant minister or bureaucrat. The media played its role in destabilizing governments and promoting their favoured political party or group. The improvement in educational, social and financial standards of the people has bridged this gap to such an extant that the media is being questioned on integrity more than the ministers! The unrestrained political ambitions of journalists have gone to the extent of dreaming to form their own government in the name of transparency, what with the chance success of some of them in Delhi Assembly election last time, riding on the public mood & support to Anna Hazare, a practising Gandhian. These journalists exposed their hollowness by liberally indulging in the smear campaigns against all and sundry excepting themselves. They make dramatic statements in the name of the ordinary citizen, the fabled aam aadfmi, though none of them is less than a few millions worth of financial assets in a country where people survive on less than a dollar a day and have no roof over their head or access to education and health care. It is easy to suck the people by promising them the moon, when any educated oerson knows how difficult it is to provide. They think their predecessors didn’t make such promises or plans and attempts to deliver on their promises but failed, to create conditions of mushrooming of such novices as the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). There is no objection to anybody entering politics and contest elections. The objection is to the invocation of the name of Mahatma Gandhi, overtly or covertly, by suggestion or association, directly or indirectly. The Gandhian cap, made of white khadi cloth, is a symbol of nationalism, freedom movement, purity of means & ends. The AAP leaders and followers don this cap suggesting that they are followers in the footsteps of the Father of the Nation, They started their political journey under the leadership of Anna Hazare, who immediately brings Mahatma Gandhi before your eyes, as he is dressed in white khadi kurta-dhoti complete with the Gandhian cap on his head and practices satyagraha and other non-violent means for his agitations. He takes care about the words he speaks in public. Compared to Haxzare or Gandhi, the AAP leadership publicly promotes bribery and other forms of corruption. They are advising people to take money from the other political parties but vote for them. The ordinary voter is not as educated or discerning as these journalists and their engineer leader and are likely to fall for illicit money, drugs, liquor and other forms of inducement. Such utterances of leaders fighting to capture power to rule in Delhi affects public morality and is fraught with criminal consequences for innocent children, school students, college graduates attending the public addresses of such leaders and working as their volunteers to make their dreams real. Loose talk inspires loose morals in public and damages moral fibre of the nation. The decline in moral standards in India in less than 50 years of independence is solely for such mis-ins[piring statements of leaders and opinion-makers. People have forgotten the virtue of ethics of means as well as ends propagated by Mahatma Gandhi that they have descended so low as to use a highly derogatory expression in the form of “majboori kaa naam Mahatma Gandhi”  (helplessness thy name is Mahatma Gandhi). Such a mentality is a sure recipe for disaster: if a people can’t be firm on moral values like fair means & ends.

I wonder why no Trust or other organization operating for promotion of clean Gandhian politics in the country has not sued the AAP in a court of law for inappropriate use of the Gandhian cap (Gandhi Topi) and sullying it by misusing it for political ends of simply riding to power in the name of Mahatma Gandhi. The Gandhi Topi was, is and shall always be a symbol of nationalism, civil rights, human values, purity and selfless service. It cannot be donned by those who promote mass bribing by irresponsible statements.

The mention of the AAP statement is to highlight the power of the media, which the minister for information & broadcasting seems to be humouring, by stating that the newspapers and TV channels are editing out readers’ reactions against such absurd remarks but highlighting it to suggest smartly that the political rivals of the AAP are indeed indulging in distributing money. Such a media needs to be regulated and not granted all the freedom over the rights of the consumers (readers & viewers). It is not to be forgotten that these newspapers and TV channels are nothing more than business ventures of big investors, who do not hesitate to ignore viewer/ reader interests. Democracy is threatened by such business interests. The Indian people are greatly disillusioned by the media and journalists, some of whom were exposed in the Raadia tapes case. The media industry too must take note of the fact that TV viewing is going to end with the technological advances making smart phones the possession of people as the ordinary mobile phone is today and net accessibility becoming a reality. Thw viewership has gone down drastically in countries like America and India follows very fast such developments. The print media knows the damage its business interests have suffered at the hands of the social media. In so far as the journalists are concerned, the less said the better as hundreds of readers have proved themselves superior to journalists, editors and columnists through their comments, which are better informed, richer content and skilled word-smithy. Such comments are full fledged articles which have not made it to the editorial pages of newspapers because the space has been dominated by shallow, biased and ill informed bloggers/ columnists and writers. Once in a while these newspapers have to publish articles from foreign writers/ journalists and the contrast becomes very glaring! The members of the knowledge society in India don’t buy newspapers! They are happy to know from social media about every development.Even the Prime Minister of India gets/gives news through social media before the newspapers can publish it.

There is no case to free the media of government oversight, though no supervision is recommended.

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