Thursday, August 18, 2022

CJI’s verdict on media

There never has been such a stinging comment on the role of Indian television channels in recent times that that made by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V.Ramana while speaking at the National University of Study and Research Law at Ranchi. The CJI slammed the electronic media of having “zero accountability,” which has rendered “doing justice” no easy task which has become increasingly challenging. He said media trials in the TV channels cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases. According to Ramana, what is being observed is how India TV channels were running kangaroo courts at times on issues even experienced judges found difficult to decide. He said ill-informed and agenda-driven debates on issues involving justice delivery were proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy. Ramana described TV debates as biased views being propagated by the anchorpersons and the consequences is that it affects viewers and weakens democracy and harms the institutionalised system. In the process, he said justice delivery gets adversely affected and that when the channels overstep and breach their responsibility, they are taking India’s democracy two steps backward. Ramana had a consolation for the print media which was still has a certain degree of accountability whereas, electronic media has zero accountability as what it shows vanishes into thin air.The CJI was clearly referring to the “noise and not news” channels where fake news become the discourse. This chunk of the Indian media, consisting of more than a dozen 24-hour national and dozens of regional television news channels, who have become notorious for biased reporting, manufacturing and spreading fake news and falsehoods, and causing communal and social strife in the country’s pluralistic society. The above channels are also accused of having a clear bias against the country’s low-caste Hindus, the poor and downtrodden, and less privileged and weaker sections of society, while favouring the rich and powerful and promoting their interests. Almost 80 per cent of the Indian media is biased, arrogant and opinionated. The observations made by the CJI are accurate and very disturbing. Everyday the biased and blatantly pro-government channels denigrate opposition parties. Any criticism of the ruling party is narrated as “anti-nationalist” and any individual challenging or demanding answers from the government is labelled “anti-Indian.”Sometimes, no opportunity is given to government critics when the biased anchorpersons shout them down with a barrage of questions. In one channel, the anchorperson had even gone to the extent of telling a government critic that he won’t allow anything to be said against the ruling party. During heated debates, the anchorpersons themselves become like spokespersons of the ruling party instead of playing their roles as neutral anchorpersons. The reasons for these TV channels having gone bananas for the ruling party are varied. Some channels are owned by corporate houses whose business interests outweigh the journalistic principles. Some have leaders or supports of the ruling party as co-owners while some have reporters and anchorpersons who are either connected to members of the ruling party or who are afraid to remain strictly neutral for fear of being trolled by hordes of pro-government supporters. That is why India’s ranking in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index has fallen to 150 out of 180 countries, according to the latest report released by the global media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). This exposed how Indian media has become another tool for propagating divisive ideology which threatens to change the dynamics of democracy.

Most Read