Patna has been reeling under severe floods for the last few days. This is not the first time that the Eastern state is facing such a severe flood crisis. It is to be noted that almost 76% of the population living in Northern Bihar faces a recurring threat of flood devastation. Yet the state’s and central government’s response to mitigate and address the issues of regular flooding in the state has been minimal. The situation has been similar for Northeastern states like Assam, Sikkim and others.
Last year in December, the Northeastern state of Meghalaya managed to get the attention of the national and global community, but due to the wrong reason. 15 miners were trapped in the illegal and ‘banned’ rat-hole coal mine located in the Jaintia Hills district. Rescue operations were carried out for four months, till march, but all of it was in vain! The rescue team ended up recovering only two dead bodies, that too in a decomposed state.
The reason to share this is to not only remind you of the state of media today but to also demand fair and equality based journalism from Indian media houses. Thanks to social media that both these issues made way to mainstream news forums and generated public engagement. Donation drives, volunteering groups, social media activism and many other initiatives started surfacing, which the mainstream media earlier ignored to report.
Despite the Magsaysay Award Winner, Ravish Kumar’s repeated requests at various public forums to completely boycott the TV news channels, the Indian audience continues to glue to primetimes. As per the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC), the news genre shows only a 1% decrease in terms of viewership for the period of 2016-17. Shockingly, this data represents the preference of the young generation i.e. 15-30 age group. For 71% of the Indians, news broadcasting on TV continues to be a favorite source of information, revelated an audience survey by Ipsos, a market research company.
In the times where media houses in India are becoming heavily subservient to their corporate or political masters, demanding fair and equality based journalism must find a place as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. Today, media houses are systemically being driven as private PR agencies for government’s policies and programs, manufacturing consent on government’s decisions and launching targeted attacks on the dissenters. Not to forget the recent move of Jharkhand Government where it invited journalists to write about the achievements of its policies, in return of payment of Rs. 15000. Battling fake news has emerged as another monstrous challenge for media houses. Many new media forums have come up which are battling the fake news, 24×7. The space for fair and equality based reporting is shrinking.
Issues like unemployment, departmental corruption, crimes against women, climate change need attention and free space. Till the time we are not seeing these issues getting reported in our 9 PM primetimes, we cannot call ourselves as an intelligent and aware citizen of India.
The right to fair and equality based journalism will not only empower the citizens and the democracy but will also uplift the plight of media houses in India. For a vibrant and aware democracy, a free and active media is extremely important. Despite three pillars, the fourth pillar was established so as to protect and cherish the foundations of the Indian Constitution.
It’s time to consider the demand for a fair and equality based journalism as a fundamental right, as it comes well within the contours of Constitutional principles.