Not long ago, news outlets tried their hand in pretending to endorse unbiased journalism. Cut to reality, the pretentiousness has vanished in thin air. All that is left is a flock of biased channels that push forward their propaganda.
Even the audience chooses the channels based on their individual political spectrum. And the channels will vehemently cast everything that the audience wants to hear. The graph of progress in the standard of journalism showcased by the media outlets has been on a fast-moving downward slope. Not to mention, how the journalists and media persons have adjusted themselves in the role of the police, the law, the lawmakers, the judge and the judiciary.
Media trials. Justified enough?
In the present arena, we have news outlets assuming the role of judiciary and conducting interrogations. Since these unwanted and unethical interrogations do not have a slight regard of a person’s Right to privacy and Right to life, they have been termed as ‘Media Trials’ or ‘Trials by Media’. These media trials have serious outcomes- provoking an atmosphere of public hysteria and mob lynching, to name a few. Regardless of any verdict by the judicial forum, a widespread perception of guilt is created on a person’s reputation. Ultimately, this adversely hinders the procedure of an actual hearing (Fair Trial). Even if the person comes out clean after the trial, he/she is forced to spend the rest of his life under intense public scrutiny.
The media which was supposed to question the government on its actions, policies and decision-making, doesn’t seem to care enough today. They seem to more interested in delivering the fake and distorted information rather than talking about the problems of the citizens in front of the regime.
Bigger and major issues overshadowed
Today, media is constituted of opinions and thoughts of the mass instead of sticking to its main objective- Quality reporting and proper research. Just as any other profession in the world, media needs to follow its standard of ethics. Only these ethics are capable of preventing the chaotic and unfair side of a media trial from an audience.
A lot of issues that should come into the limelight are being over shadowed such as negative GDP, unemployment, tensions brewing at the LAC, rising cases of COVID-19, climate change, genocide of Muslim minorities in China, attack on the freedom of speech and expression, domestic violence, re-emergence of infectious disorders such as polio and TB. The media appears to have lost sight of the ocean for the drains.
The reality is far away from the euphoria. All we see is shouting, screaming, huffing media persons howling behind cars, infamous vilifying of Bengali women as witches and most unfortunately stripping the left-over dignity of the deceased. Not to mention, how Indian media has become a matter of joke in front of the international community. The media fraternity keeps on forgetting that the word has come down to a global village. The entire world out there can see us making a fool of ourselves by letting these biased and sexist media outlets act a certain way.
The great media role reversal
The genre of aggressive journalism, harassment and stalker tactics adopted by the media to ensure that the purpose of the people behind them is aptly served, is highly disappointing, disturbing and utter shameful. Indian media has forgotten that it needs to serve as a ray of hope. It is high time for the media houses to reinvent them and forgo the short-term profits for the long-term benefits of the audience. The audience ought to use their discretion to decide what should be watched and what should be trashed. Even without the media’s unwanted contribution, there is enough hatred all around.
The kind of society and the future we want to live is in our hands. On the crossroads that we are standing now we have two options- (a) head towards an authoritarian self-reliant society that blindly follows patriarchy and has belief on the supremacy of a select few or (b) take the path of education, acceptance, information, mutual trust and development and together deal with issues.
A word for the beholder
The WHO (2000), Indian Psychiatry Society (2014), Press Council of India (2019) and the Centre for Mental Health, Law and Policy (2020) have time and again issued guidelines in reporting that constitute ethical reporting of personal, potentially sensitive information. From the mental health, legal and ethical perspective, many organisations have taken their stand against sensationalizing self-harming behaviour and suicide while reporting a news. In addition to this, emphasis on avoiding dehumanising language such as labeling someone ‘schizophrenic’ has been on rise.
What the audience can do is THINK. Before forming an opinion, please think twice. Before mocking or threatening anyone on social media, think. Before accepting information and passing it on, think. Logic, reasoning and common sense are not meant to rot. Their timely utilization will make one stand apart from the crowd. It wont take much of time to see the dirty and brutal turn journalism has taken. One needs to take off the veil of hatred, confusion, anger. As easy breezy as that.
(The author is an alumnus of IIMC, Dhenkanal. Views are personal.)