The two-part article by Justice Markandey Katju on freedom of the press and journalistic ethics (June 3 & 4) was well written. It analysed the widening gap between the mass media and mass reality. But I would not blame the media alone for the situation. Popular media — print, visual and the Internet — are here to do business. A major chunk is in the hands of corporates. With satellite TV and reality shows invading homes, who is interested in knowing what is happening to farmers in Vidarbha or about people subject to injustice in the name of caste and community?
Educated people are well informed about the goings-on. All they do is blame the system or the government, which they themselves elect. Once a child is born, parents are concerned about the prizes he or she will win in dance competitions, fashion shows, cricket. Through school and college, children are trained to compete. Once they get a professional degree, they settle down in a metro city with a posh flat and facilities. Who has the time to care about the poor? I am to blame for the state of affairs. So is the root from where I get my ideas — schools.
Khan Immran Moideen,
The media play a vital role in a democracy. It was only after the government saw that the movement against corruption was getting nationwide support did it agree to consider the demands of civil society. The media should raise key issues of public interest, instead of giving extensive coverage to cricket, movies and television soaps.
The media, particularly the electronic media, have failed to perform their duty of promoting democracy and social justice. In the name of freedom, they sensationalise the trivial, and trivialise what is of vital importance. However, it is difficult to expect ethical responsibility from a largely private media with their emphasis on TRP ratings.
The visual media divert people's attention to non-issues — the latest example being Baba Ramdev's political drama. To eliminate corruption, every individual should act.
Most sections of the media spoil the young by taking away their precious time. They fail to stimulate their brain and guide them. As a result, youngsters become gullible and vulnerable. Irresponsible journalists write stories based on rumours, not facts, looking for short-term gains. Regional political parties, too, run their own media channels to suit their needs. With the literacy rate in India growing, the media too need a new vision.
Some dispensations allow only restricted freedom to the press. In many instances, the media, print or visual, are owned or controlled by the state or vested interests. They are used by these forces to propagate their agenda and influence public opinion in their favour. Under these conditions, journalists cannot be expected to function independently. The more we advance on modern industrial lines, the more we deviate from idealism and ethics. It is debatable whether western societies, which moved from feudalism to industrial capitalism, have changed journalistic ethics in any manner.
In India, the media have considerable freedom as compared with military and dictatorial regimes. Even the media in the U.S., which proclaims to be the champion of human causes, were not fair in their coverage of Iraq. Newspapers like The Hindu have shown responsibility by publishing issues related to khap panchayats, honour killings, farmers' suicides, and corruption. People have become more sensitive to these issues. But most sections of the media give undue importance to glamour to increase their circulation.
Keywords: Letters to the Editor