Transparency has to be the essence of any democracy and India claims to be the world’s largest. The previous Congress-led government takes credit for bringing transparency in governance. The party face Rahul Gandhi couldn’t speak of anything other than the ‘Right to Information’ that the Congress government made possible.
However, the times have changed now, the values have changed, and the idea of transparency has reached a higher level. It’s perhaps the first time in the history of independent India when policies of defence, foreign relations, border security and military plans are no more pondered upon in closed-door meetings. The journalists no more need to cultivate sources who would spy into those secret dialogues. The present technologically advanced newsrooms are equipped enough to broadcast the crucial meetings live, the meetings which are not chaired by the defence minister, but by some patriotic military commanders who call themselves journalists. And commanders of the regiments that lack behind are ‘liberal journalists’ or ‘designer patrakars’.
Television newsrooms are fast turning into war-rooms, broadcast journalists into guarded commanders and television anchors into defence ministers. Now even a compounder ‘strikes’ patients ‘surgically’. The matter of concern is that India does not have enough defence institutes to meet the television military requirements. So each regiment now has its own training camp.
There are nearly five reputed institutes of journalism in India, with the Asian College of Journalism at the first place. They have a good entrance process and hence good students join them. An institute’s reputation depends on two main parameters – quality of the students and that of the teachers. These institutes have both and so is their output. There are some reputed media organizations ready to hire their pass-outs but such groups reach a minute audience as compared to commercial media giants, particularly the television news channels. The channels need people for commercial journalism – the work that brings high audience rating points and hence a better revenue.
So here is a quick solution! Many of them now have their own journalism institutes, which I earlier referred to as ‘their own training camp’. Most of them offer post-graduate diploma courses in broadcast journalism. They compete with other institutes on two fronts – their faculty includes prominent broadcasters and the students have a greater opportunity of getting a job in the concerned channel. And this is the matter of concern.
I wonder what the students are trained into. My mentors encourage me to never compromise on my first right – the freedom of speech. That makes journalism a sacred profession. But we have television channels like Times Now and ‘journalists’ like Arnob Goswami who call for gagging of media, and journalists to be tried and punished. Prominent broadcast journalist Barkha Dutt earlier reacted to this, saying, “This man is journalist? I am ashamed to be from same industry as him.”
This channel too has its own institute – Times School of Journalism. If journalism is what Goswami does, then there are at least 30 more such people joining the industry every year, and hence 30 more ‘journalists’ fighting against the freedom of press.
The fight for the rating points has turned miserably filthy. Now we see ‘journalists’ screening on the prime time television, praising the army for ‘surgical strikes’ which have no trace, labelling critics as ‘anti-nationals’ and planning cross-border attacks in a newsroom turned ‘war-room’. How can we expect the same people to train young aspiring journalists into professionals who uphold the democracy? Their syllabus would perhaps have chapters like ‘everything is fair is love and war’. Their practical exams would perhaps not be on teleprompters, but on sound-level meters. And if this is going to be the future of journalism, then I am speechless.
Even though the loyal Indians rejoice over the country’s global ranking in sectors of economy, military and sports, they fail to raise concern over the press freedom, which the country lacks miserably. India ranks at 133 among 180 countries as per the latest ‘world press freedom index’. Now that’s an awful record for a country that claims to be the largest ‘democracy’ in the world. Media is popularly known as the fourth pillar of democracy but, unfortunately, the jingoistic journalists are themselves shaking its foundation. It won’t be surprising if these journalists run yet another campaign to celebrate Indian lead in the press freedom index over Pakistan, while disregarding the 122 countries ahead of them.