The ‘Independent’ Indian Media

Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

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It is time the truth about our ‘independent’ media is exposed.

The Indian media is broadly divided into two groups: the ‘godi‘ media, comprising of about 90% of the entire media, which toes the government line, and the self proclaimed ‘independent’ media, comprising of the rest, which professes to represent the public interest, proclaims itself independent, and flaunts the slogan of media freedom.

We need not comment on the ‘godi‘ media, as it is sold out, shameless, and sycophantic.

freeThe problem is of correctly assessing and evaluating the so called ‘independent’ media, whose representatives are regarded the portals (headed by Siddhartha Varadarajan) and (whose team includes Ashutosh, Shailesh and QW Naqvi), Karan Thapar, an independent journalist, Ravish Kumar, winner of the Magsaysay award who works for NDTV, Ajit Anjum, who has started his own YouTube channel, etc.

They are almost unanimous in criticising the faults in the BJP government (of which I too am a critic). But the problem is that they never go beyond that.

For instance the ‘independent’ media never goes into the question whether democracy is suitable to India at all, and if not, what may be the alternative ? In fact they will never even allow such a question to be raised in their publications or shows, though they claim to be champions of freedom of the media.

Similarly, none of them raise the question (or permit it to be raised) whether the Constitution of India has exhausted itself.

Now it may be said that the media is only meant to report facts, not present political theory.

But is it not the truth that the Constitution has become hollow, and our democracy hijacked by caste and communal forces, as mentioned in the above articles (for which all parties are to blame, not just the BJP)?

Are these not facts? Should the ‘independent’ media not report these bigger facts and discuss these bigger issues, and instead confine itself to misdeeds of the ruling party and other facts?

Should the ‘independent’ media not allow discussion to go beyond the Constitutional framework and parliamentary democracy, as if the Indian Constitution and parliamentary democracy are holy cows?

Our ‘independent’ media widely discussed the Sushant Singh Rajput affair, Covid, the Pegasus affair, sedition cases, farmers protests, Afghanistan situation, Rafale deal, Maharashtra rains, Tokyo Olympics, etc (though these are also important) but are the bigger issues mentioned above never to be discussed, even with the disclaimer that the views presented are not those of the publisher?

Walter Cronkite

Moreover, the media often offers opinions, and not just reports facts. An example of this is the opinion expressed by the American journalist, Walter Cronkite, the anchor of CBS Evening News, who in a telecast in February, 1968 expressed his view that the American war in Vietnam is ‘mired in a stalemate’, and that the American government should now negotiate with Ho Chi Minh.

This opinion contributed to President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to stand for election for a second term.

Evidently the ‘independent’ media never reports and discusses these bigger issues because it relies on advertisements and contributions, which will dry up if they do so. So while it professes and preaches media freedom, it will never allow any article to be published about them in their publications or shows.

Their ‘freedom of the media’, which they proclaim from the housetops, comes to an end when it comes to finance.

As regards the recent Income tax raids on the Dainik Bhaskar offices, the ‘independent’ media have cried themselves hoarse that this is an act of a vindictive government which wanted to victimise the Bhaskar group because it was exposing the government’s falsehoods about the covid situation, and it is an act to suppress the freedom of the media.

They question the timing of the raids, but they never discuss whether there were wrongdoings by the Bhaskar Group which justified these raids.

If the owners of Dainik Bhaskar (the 3 sons of its founder Ramesh Chandra Agarwal) had only been bringing out the newspaper I would have joined the chorus condemning the raids as an attack on media freedom.

But as reported, they are doing a large number of other businesses (some say about 50), including business in real estate, mining, power, agricultural solvents, tea leaves, entertainment, radio stations, etc, with a reported turnover of thousands of crores of rupees.

Why should not there be an Income tax raid to find out alleged wrongdoings in all these businesses?

LN Shital, a former editor of Dainik Bhaskar said “the media group acquired land from the government at cheap prices and repurposed the land for their own benefits. Bhaskar has been building and selling duplex flats by collaborating with builders and merchants. Is the media a holy cow, immune from being probed?

It is time the truth about our ‘independent’ media is exposed.

Also Read:

Media Freedom in India: Situation getting worse by the day

‘Why I am a vaccine skeptic’

Cases against media persons – Don’t shoot the Messenger!

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Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

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