Satish Jacob’s film, recently screened in Delhi, focuses on some of the key issues facing the media today

The media plays an important role in a democratic society. The audio-visual media has emerged as a very powerful tool of communication in India. But things are not as clean as we might believe. There are some hidden truths.

A documentary film, Is Indian Media in a Self-Destruct Mode?, screened recently in the Capital, raised some crucial points. Directed by senior journalist Satish Jacob, the film explores the issues of sponsored news, paid news and media regulation in light of some recent happenings.

The screening was followed by a discussion on these issues by senior journalists Seema Mustafa and Mark Tully, former diplomat Pavan Varma and social researcher Bhaskara Rao.

“Lack of training and lack of editorial control are responsible for this. Misuse of technology and easy transportation of news have brought indiscipline in journalists. And this trend is dangerous. False and baseless reporting has also raised an alarm on the credibility of reports,” Tully said. “Huge rumours and unconfirmed reports have reduced the credibility of the media. New media and social media are full of unconfirmed reports. There is a need for regulation. We are not competent to regulate ourselves. This regulation should be independent of press and government,” he added.

His view was echoed by Pavan Varma, who said, “Competition without regulation is not good.”

According to Seema, “Journalists don’t know the basic nuances of reporting. Today it is difficult to differentiate between facts and fiction.” Seema felt a lack of proper training is the reason behind this kind of journalism.

“In journalism schools, they don’t teach the Constitution of India to the students. Journalists must know constitutional law, fundamental rights, some IPC (Indian Penal Code) and CrPc (The Code of Criminal Procedure). How can you report if you are not aware of a particular issue? Only beautiful packaging of news will not work.”

The documentary also dwells on the commercialisation of the media. It shows how a news channel tries to extort money from a corporate house. “There is a need to revive old fashioned journalism,” Seema said.

“Free media is a great asset of this country…It will be a great loss for India if the media lost credibility,” Varma added.