Freedom For Journalists In India At What Cost? – OpEd


A section of journalists from the print and visual media in Tamil Nadu, India have organized a meeting in Chennai recently protesting against what they called as “suppression of press freedom” by the Tamil Nadu government. The question is whether such protests are justified or appropriate.

It is well known that most of the visual media and part of the print media in Tamil Nadu are owned by political parties or business houses, who have an agenda. Even in the case of several news papers and journals, the editors often take narrow and partisan view of developments which is now very obvious.

In recent times, in Tamil Nadu, the media has been creating an impression, as if the entire Tamil Nadu is protesting and holding demonstrations for one reason or the other everyday. The fact is that most of these protests and demonstrations have only less than one hundred participants or organized by vested interests and sometimes, it is reported that even service of protestors are bought to show a sizable crowd to get undue publicity.

In the protest meetings even with regard to technological subjects like Neutrino, infrastructure projects etc, It is seen that even school children wearing school uniforms and probably in the age group of eight to fourteen are brought and made to participate . Sometimes, children in the age group of seven to eight studying in elementary class level are made to speak about gas exploration and coal bed methane and these children get huge publicity in the media, making it look that their opinion are the opinion of cross section of people in Tamil Nadu.

In such circumstances, the fringe groups ,politicians and routine protestors and activists get encouraged as they get undue publicity in the media, which otherwise will be totally ignored by the people. Such people see media as one that can boost their “career prospects”.

There are many good things happening in Tamil Nadu which are rarely seen by the journalists who only want sensation, demonstrations and violent incidents to be highlighted. The voice of progressive thinkers and intelligentia in Tamil Nadu who have unbiased and objective views backed by sound knowledge of matters are now conspicuous by absence.

For media, it appears that politicians and cinema actors are the be all and end all of society in Tamil Nadu.

In the process, the fibre and fabric of society in Tamil Nadu is getting disturbed and the youth in the formative age group are being misled. In such circumstances, there is nothing wrong in the government trying to make the media accountable by initiating action against motivated news and campaign.

As the media and journalists seem to be under the impression that they can say anything and do anything and get away with it and even publish false and misleading information without being accountable and can damage the reputation of any institution, group or individuals without adequate and responsible study and investigation, the media is causing havoc to the thought process of people in Tamil Nadu.

A media without sense of responsibility and without having adequate understanding of the adverse implications of it’s role is not a desirable option for any society.

Journalists who protested in the meeting in Chennai should first introspect between themselves honestly, evaluate their knowledge and capability level to comment on any matter, before organizing such protest meetings and rushing to the state Chief Minister with their representation.

The media personnel in Tamil Nadu need a good mirror to look at their own face.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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