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Analysing fourth pillar of democracy

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Indian democracy is not based on separation of power but based on cooperative working. This was done to ensure check and balances. There is always debate whether 3 organs of the Indian government have done justice the role assigned to them. But little is debated about effectiveness of 4th pillar of democracy – the media.

Has media evolved as an alternate centre of check and balance for other 3 pillars? Or it has deviated from its path?

3 things are required from media: It should tell truth, it should be unbiased, and it should not act to spread propaganda. Indian media is failing today in all these 3 aspects.

 

It is telling half truths and even lies. Every media group has ideological or political bias, and to serve its prejudice it is spreading propaganda.

Media in India
Indian news channels

Shashi tharoor once famously commented: “My friend’s father earlier wouldn’t believe in any news until it was in TOI and now he doesn’t believe in any news if it is in TOI”. This is the level of credibility of media.

 

In a hurry to be a first in news they fail to check authenticity of news, or worse, attribute news to a internal sources. A leading newspaper had news article that Baba Ramdev had claimed to cure Ebola. Later it turned out that source of information of newspaper was a fake website.

Similarly a Firstpost editor unhappy with a Padam Bhushan awarded to Baba Ramdev wrote an “hate article” with all sort of news from Patanjali not having licence to Income tax regularities. All turned out to be false. It drew sharp reactions from social media and Firstpost had to remove the article.

NDTV is considered to be one of the most authentic media news channel and oldest of all English news channels, but in hurry to discredit Narendra Modi, it flashed news that Sushma had dismissed that there was any Modi wave, which later proved to be false. It drew sharp reactions from party and it boycotted channel for many days.

 

Then recently, India today attributed a statement to Sonia Gandhi that Naga deal was unacceptable to Congress, which was never said by her. They had to delete that news later. Worse was reported by HT in August that said that Muslims in Gujarat had declined from 46 lakh in 2001 to 30 lakh in 2011. But fact was that Muslim population was recorded 58.46 lakh in 2011 and 30 lakh was male Muslim population. Was it so hard to get checked all these fact before publishing?

In second criteria of being unbiased, none of the channels fare well.

Way of reporting same news by different channel will tell the side to which they are biased. On Rahul British passport issue, Zee news ran a news “Rahul exposed by Swami” while other news channels ran with a headline “Rahul alleged to be a British citizen”. A word exposed amount to announcing a verdict.

Similarly on Arvind hugging Lalu, Zee news was questioning Arvind’s anti-corruption stand while Ravish of NDTV was trying to downplay the incidence by running a picture of Modi with Lalu from a wedding event. In other case, NDTV removed news of statement made by Salman Khurshid in Pakistan from its portal. Under pressure from top?

Moving to third point: media instead of spreading news and awareness, is spreading propaganda and even media trial, where media decides guilty even before probe is over or case is filed, leave aside waiting for a judicial decision.

Most recent example is death of two children belonging to a Dalit family. On very next morning media linked killing to a growing intolerance in country and a caste based violence. While violence against dalits is reality in India but is every case where victim involved is dalit and perpetrator is non-dalit (including OBC) is case of caste violence?

While deciding this, shouldn’t we see reason behind violence? By that criteria every violent act by Muslim will be a terrorism and every confrontation between black and white a racial act.

If one looks closely into incidence in Haryana, one will find that it was family rivalry. Members of same dalit family have been alleged to murder a 3 members of a Rajput family (same family against whom police have registered FIR of killing 2 children). No other Rajput family or dalit family of village is involved in this rivalry and they deny presence of caste based violence.

More shameful is the fact that media announced the guilty even before police registered a FIR, only on basis of “allegation” of children’s mother, who admits that she has not seen the attackers. Her allegation was based on perceived notion based on historic rivalry as her family members are in a jail based on FIR filed by Rajput family. It is very probable that her allegation is true but media can at least add word “alleged” before them to do justice for their work.

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