The press, especially the television medium, has been extremely unfair to the viewers and unjust to the targets it chooses to attack. It sells only stories, hardly disseminating news in any objective manner. It treats itself not as the independent Fourth Estate of the Indian democracy but superior chamber of the State, superintending and supervising, directing and regulating, ordering and reviewing in the avtar of the highest authority of the state. In any democracy, governments can always be pilloried on soft subjects like human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, terrorists’ rights, divorce, capital punishment, religious matters, freedom of speech & expression, property rights and corruption above all. However, the worst is the media trial, especially motivated participants and ignorant hosts, who possess simply one quality i.e. shouting/ screaming/ lecturing/ arguing/ interrogating/ accusing/deciding in advance. They are prejudiced against the voices of reason, state organs or even the law. They are often too demanding to place the construction they want on words, expressions, laws. In a way, they deem themselves autonomous, not answerable to any authority, person or even their viewers. They take offence at the gentlest nudge from the state to mind their words or priorities. That is obnoxious. They exceeded all limits of proportion, good sense and propriety in running highly provocative and mean but endless debates on the hanging of the convict of the 1993 Bombay blasts. Their audacity went to the extent of running commentary on the judgement of the Supreme Court of India insinuating that it was flawed in their own judgement. Thankfully they escaped getting lynched by the irate masses and families of the dead or seriously injured & disabled because they were operating from their secure studios. The media forgets that knowledge is no more the monopoly of the few when journalists and editors used to occupy a higher position in society. Today, they sound stupid by running such stories: the people may not hit them physically but hit the remote button to switch them off!
The other debate relates to government ban on porn sites on public demand and gentle nudge from the Supreme Court. In less than 48 hours, the press and television channels raised such a hue and cry as if heavens have fallen and the very right to life has been forfeited. Vociferous demand were made from the so called liberal sections of the intelligentsia, which included the media, to lift the ban. Is pornography such an essential part of their daily diet? No, I am not supposed to raise such questions; it is only their right to question others. In any case, the newspapers have been thrusting soft porn on the readers in the form of entertainment stories and ads flashing female body from every possible angle and films and television dishing out live everything right into the bedroom. What is left out? Why there is such a hullabaloo about pornography? Do they fear they will be asked to curtail such coverage to limits of decency? The issue is who decides what is decency? The media feels offended under the mistaken belief of some kind of a moral policing. It tries to make it sound convincing as the present government is led by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which is perceived to be rightist and Hindu party. They attach little value to the fact that all sections of society- Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc. view these sites if they like them. There is no moral or immoral prescription about these sites; it is purely scientific. India has, perhaps, been one of the very few countries in the world which had never restrained anybody from pursuing his or her interests, including what is called porn today but erotica or sex earlier. A scientific approach to any subject is different from its commercialization. Students of medical science are taught in every detail all aspects of human anatomy and man-woman relations etc. Has anybody ever called it porn? No. Same is the answer in art- nudity in paintings or carvings in stone or wood have never been termed porn. But the fare being dished out by these commercial websites is decidedly porn. But nobody is bothered so long as they don’t pop up on screens of viewers without being accessed. That is criminal, that un-accessed display is indecent and vulgar and objectionable.
For the votaries of freedom of expression, I would seek for them special TV channels airing XXX films 24×7, which they can watch in the company of their parents, siblings and children. They can even invite their friends and neighbors. Neither the government nor the judiciary should come in the way of such freedom of the initiated, who are better placed to handle such content even in the company of their near and dear ones. Objections raised about such unhindered marketing is about the really uninitiated. They are the target market for these sites. The opposition to these sites is purely scientific; it has nothing to do with morals. The science concerns human health in society. We would not like India to become afflicted by AIDS or HIV at the same scale at which it has harmed developed countries in the west and developing countries in Asia and Africa. We don’t want Ebola type diseases to destroy public health. The big multi-national pharma companies seek to expand their markets and addictive practices like pornography help them achieve their goal. Is it healthy to watch porn all the time or go through the whole experience of life through lawful marriage of man & woman? American scientist have even counted the number of times one can perform the act (36000?). Is such valuable prowess to be wasted by indulging in porn watching and its unhealthy consequences? Is it about morals or morality? Or is it pure science? Besides health concerns, porn is law & order problem. It instigates and triggers responses that are unable to control ending up in serious crimes like rape or attempt to rape or rape & murder. Science says that the male-female ratio is skewed in nature, only some 867 females against 1000 males. The potential for damage by porn sites can be acknowledged in the background of science, without seeking license to do anything in the name of free speech and calling perceived adversaries as mere moral police.
The media that has been charging the government of assault on free speech is blissfully ignorant of the extreme and very dangerous assault it mounts on its viewers round the clock. Is it the fundamental right of the media to torture the hundreds of families who lost their men, women and children in the barbaric bomb blast on civilians in a city like Bombay (Mumbai)? When the same terrorists killed a dozen journalists in France, they were condemned by everyone and the Indian journalists never rose to support the terrorists. Do they think that attacks on Indians are justified but not on Europeans? What better example can be given of crass commercialism in the Indian media? It is not journalism, the famed Fourth Estate, but a dirty media industry, which has thrived on open corruption of blackmailing the legendary corruption of the past 68 years in India? In fact, the Late Nirad Choudhary had referred to corruption in the Calcutta (now Kolkata) Municipal Corporation in 1925 and the Military Department in 1945, even before Independence. Journalism in India was born to follow such acts of omission & commission of the corrupt in India post- independence but soon became a part of it. The corrupt face of the Indian journalists was exposed by what is now known as the Raadia Tapes. Many fervent advocates of the free speech today were shamed and named in those tapes as the middle persons to fix political and bureaucratic appointments and exchange of illegal money called bribe in public parlance. Do they have the right to cry of perceived assault on free speech (we are not talking moral right but only legal right)?
Is this not atrocious for the media to run for days all kinds of stories about the rape and murder of two sisters in a distant village in UP? They are just not concerned with the hurt they cause by their lust for TRPs by running lurid stories on a poor man’s tragedy? The family in mourning is oppressed by all kinds of questions from the TV crews, who display lack of any sensitivity while firing their questions. There are any number of examples of media atrocities on the viewers. Ads are run for hours by giving a one line news in between to meet the legal requirements and same films are run throughout the year on a few days interval. If the state tries to bring some discipline to this anarchist breed, it can’t be objected in the name of free speech. Nobody, the media being no exception, can indulge in defamation. The credibility of the media in India has suffered so much that the newspaper industry in on the verge of closure and TV channels are getting poor ratings from the viewers, even though they might manipulate the figures to claim to be at the top. Even the corrupt politicians occupy the top positions, but they are rated very low by the people unless they establish their integrity. The media has lost all credibility in the recent times. Their noise about the hanging of the bomb blast accused or advocacy of the free porn has further eroded this credibility. Social media will prove their final nail, unless they regain their credibility sooner than later. People dislike suckers and confidence tricksters. The media should not take the viewers for granted. They are internet empowered knowledge society members.
Why are they so agitated about porn sites? The answer is: it is big business; windfall profits at minimal investment. In the past 4 years, they have condemned, criticized and castigated MPs & MLAs watching porn on their mobile phones inside the official premises of meetings. If they think it is the right of everybody to watch porn, why such noisy debates for days on TV channels, defaming people’s representatives as if they have committed an offence? As sin, like morals, has no place in the modern secular glossary of the liberal civil society champions of porn sites, it can be called only an offence, but it is no offence under any existing law as far as I know to watch porn sites for these MPs/MLAs. Why, then, is the journalist community so outraged at them? Only because they are politicians? Only because they are soft targets for blackmailers of the media? But it is business so long as the porn sector is restricted to only Indian TV channels, films and newspapers. Were the government to open the sector and allow porn magazines from the west sell their wares in India, open sex shops as in the west and run open markets like the SOHO, our free speech champions will go all out to tear the government to pieces on moral grounds which they are averse to now as it does not serve their commercial interests. Let it be clear that nobody is afraid of porn business in India. It will be viewed as a part of the oldest profession and given the same treatment. Indian psyche is superior in that it raises such complex scientific subjects as romance and sex to a very high level, if the Kamasutra, Khajuraho or the custom of Nagar Badhu (City Bride) are any indications. In fact, there are some Religious Orders whose saints or guides have discarded robes and walk freely without any inhibition even while giving discourse to their followers. But there is absolutely no freedom for porn sites to indulge in hard sell by popping up uninvited. There is no difference between adult or child porn – it has the same effect on impressionable mind. The government is duty bound to preserve and protect the rights of the citizens who do not want the media to act funny in serious matters like porn, hanging of blast accused or terrorists and other criminals. If there are reasonable restrictions on the citizens’ right to free speech, how can the media not subject itself to the same restrictions? They are not super Executive or Super Judiciary. They have no right to stoke disaffection among sections of people by tendentious and motivated reporting and debates or stoke communal violence or provoke citizens raising their blood pressure by vulgar debates or outright disinformation or campaign against the state from morning till night. The media is equally answerable to all the charges it is levelling against the government, including assault on free speech. Unless the citizen gets the full opportunity to rebut the media’s colored views, detoxify it of the venomous language, disabuse it of the prejudiced mind, make it see reason and take a holistic and objective view of issues, it will be one way fare for it to harass, oppress and hit hard the viewers daily, that too after charging for it. Stop this monopoly of the media on citizens, governments and the judiciary. In fact, the government should restrict telecast hours to 4 hours from 5-9 in the evening with immediate effect to reduce psychological pollution and disturbance. Nobody has the stomach for 24 hour news and entertainment. It is as harmful to the mind as is consumption of sweets or chocolates to health of the body. One leads to psychiatric disorders while the other leads to gastric disorders. Unless regulated by law, the Indian media is likely to land the country into a psychological endemic. Our day should not start with breakfast made of negative news and language. Like fresh air, we must first take in good measure adequate quantity of positive thoughts and good words to sustain a high energy level throughout the day. For that we must abhor newspapers and TV until after lunch time.