Wednesday, September 29, 2021
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Misplaced Priorities

By Satish Singh

The recent raids by the Income Tax Department on Dainik Bhaskar’s offices are being seen as an attack on fearless journalism. It is being said that the government is taking retaliation due to the continuous printing of truth by Dainik Bhaskar during the Corona period. However, nowadays people will be seen telling the story of the decline of journalism in the tea stall at villages & small towns & on social media platforms. There is nothing wrong if some people are saying that the quality or standard of journalism is deteriorating or diminishing. Before independence or even after independence up to few years, journalism was mission for journalists & media houses. The newspaper and magazine used to have credibility among the people. People used to read magazines or newspapers to learn the language. Even in the court, the judges used to give decisions based on the news published in the newspaper. The news published in the newspapers was used as an evidence in the court, as the newspapers was publishing the news only after verifying the veracity of the news.

Even before independence, freedom fighters were using journalism to liberate the country. Journalists were doing the work of raising their voice against social evils or bringing awareness among the public against them. Once Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi ji had said that both journalist and journalism should be neutral and should always work to bring out the truth. Before independence, this statement of Dwivedi ji was true to a great extent, but now both journalist and journalism are losing their credibility.

However, the pressure of power on journalism was there yesterday and still is today. Despite this, efforts have been made to do journalism diligently in every period. In every era, some journalists have been successful in saving the dignity of journalism and journalists. Some journalists were not afraid of the top sitting in power in the past. Even today, they are fighting for the truth. They never used to compromise before and neither did they today. Such journalists are still trying to keep democracy and journalism alive even today.

Even though our country has become independent, but journalism has not got freedom even today, because even the governments of independent India have been afraid of fearless journalism. For this reason, the government has never tried to strengthen journalism, because the government is afraid of true journalism. True and fair news can shake or bring down the government. True news can also bring justice to the weaker section of the society and can also change the society. For this reason, governments have been suppressing and crushing the truth in every period. Therefore, even after 73 years of independence, laws to strengthen journalism have not been enacted.

Social media has greatly influenced journalism in the changing environment, but social media has many flaws. There is no regulator governing this, while everyone publishes private and public news in social media. Many times, misleading news is posted in social media, which creates problems for social media users to differentiate between true or false news. Generally conscious users differentiate between truth and falsehood, but sometimes they also fall in the trap of misleading or false news. Illiterate or less educated or less aware users are influenced by such news and take wrong steps many times. It has also been said that if a lie is told a hundred times, it becomes true. Many times, on the same lines, work is done on social media to make misleading and false news true, which obviously has a negative effect on the society as well. Although, social media has no direct relation with journalism, but indirectly it is also affecting journalism.

In today’s date, most of the journalists are influenced by political ideology, due to which they are not able to remain neutral. Doing true journalism is not the aim of journalism today. Publishing newspapers or magazines has become a business. It has become more important for a journalist to bring advertisements than to bring true news, because in most newspapers or media institutions, the job remains intact only by bringing advertisements. Although there has been a radical change in journalism from the point of view of technology, but to earn maximum profits, journalists have started neglecting the norms of journalism. TV journalists go to any extent for TRP. At the same time a few Journalists are giving priorities to telecasting or publishing false and misleading news.

After the launching of TV journalism, there has been a huge change in the direction of journalism. TV journalists, especially reporters and anchors, are given more attention and respect in the society than print journalists. Due to coming on the TV screen, some anchors and reporters get respect and fame like the hero and heroine of the cinema.

Anyway, the number of famous journalists is limited. Still, the youth, influenced by the glitz of TV journalism, yearn to become an anchor and reporter. Therefore, private journalism institutes are charging a few lakhs of rupees as fees by showing stardom to such youth. After doing journalism course, most of the youth feel disappointed, when they are not able to get a job in good media institutes, they become frustrated or depressed. Even if the youths get jobs, their salary and allowances or service conditions are not attractive. Overall, the financial condition of journalists working in most of the media institutions today is not good, especially the journalists of print media.

Usually, smaller newspapers are unable to publish newspapers with attractive packaging, due to which their readership is limited, and they usually do not get many advertisements. Therefore, today it has become a difficult task to publish small newspapers. Many small newspapers have been closed during the Corona period. Big newspapers have also had to close many of their editions. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. Those whose jobs have been saved, their salaries and allowances have been drastically cut.

Journalists reporting from village and small-town areas are called stringers. Their jobs are temporary. Nowadays most of the stringers are doing blackmailing because they have started considering journalism as a means of earning money. They themselves fabricate news to benefit or harm someone. Before doing this, they do not think even once that what will be the effect of their misdeeds on the society or on the individual, whereas a journalist needs to be very careful during news compilation. News needs to be scrutinized and tested at many levels.

Journalists should write news only when they have evidence. Journalists should refrain from publishing or disseminating news without proof. Never write or telecast such news, which is likely to have a negative impact on the society. It should not be understood that no one reads or watches small news. Every news is read and watched, and it has an impact on the society. Whether the news is small or big, it is read or watched. Journalists should also refrain from writing prophetic news. Such news contains promises that are often not fulfilled. The image of the newspaper gets tarnished if such reports are proved wrong.

The job of a journalist is to ask questions. The journalist should not be afraid of doing this, but today the reporter or editor has forgotten to ask questions. If you ask questions, that is also sponsored by someone influential. Be it a police officer or a minister, the journalist should avoid being sycophantic. This undermines the credibility of journalism. The questions may be stinging, but the journalist must ask.

One of the major reasons for the weakening of journalism is that the media institutions are not neutral. Today businessmen or politicians are running media institutions. The aim of the businessman is to earn profit and the purpose of the politician is to flourish their politics by the help of newspapers or TV channels. Businessmen are also indirectly influenced by politics. They donate money to political parties or publish or telecast news in their favour and in return get them to do their work.

If the three pillars of democracy i.e. judiciary, legislature and executive are not discharging their responsibilities properly, then it is the job of the fourth pillar of democracy “journalism” to show them the right path, but today the fourth pillar of democracy is also not performing its duties properly. Most of the journalists and media institutions have forgotten the norms of journalism. They are using journalism to earn money. There are many types of professions in our country, which we do for our livelihood and comply with the norms of the said profession. Journalism is also a profession, which has some principles, which are necessary for both journalists and media institutions to follow. So, today it is necessary that journalists and media institutions should discharge their responsibilities appropriately, because by publishing or telecasting the truth, media institutions or newspapers can earn profits. There is no need to take the wrong path to earn earnings.

(Author is Chief Manager at State Bank of India, Mumbai. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at satish5249@gmail.com and singhsatish@sbi.co.in.)

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