Independence Day Thoughts: Is India Paying Too Big A Price For Media Freedom? – OpEd


India will celebrate yet another Independence Day on 15th August, 2016. This independence day and the days that will follow are unlikely to be different from several other previous independence days. Of course, Prime Minister Modi will deliver his speech with his characteristic eloquence and marked style from Red Fort with or without bullet proof enclosure . For a change, Mr. Modi has invited suggestions from country men on what he should say during his Independence Day speech. Of course, thousands of suggestions would have come to him and he may even use a few.

In any case, the speech will be heard with rapt attention from the invited audience and with wide telecast throughout the country.

Expectations from Mr. Modi still high

There is no doubt that Modi has been working hard ever since he became the Prime Minister and has been striving to bring visible changes in the economic and social face of the country. Certainly, he has succeeded to some extent and several positive schemes are under work in process stage. While some proposals like land acquisition bill met with severe criticism, the Modi government has been pragmatic to withdraw the bill, responding to the valid criticisms.

Even as the deprived section of the country men who live below poverty line and constitute around 25% of the national population are yet to feel any positive impact on their life conditions due to the policy initiatives of Modi government , nevertheless, it appears that cross section of the country men are still reposing faith on Mr.Modi’s commitment and continue to expect that he would bring about what some people call as “miracles”.

Negative picture by media

The problem in India today is that more than the positives, negatives are highlighted by the media and discussed in public forum. There is nothing really wrong about discussing the negatives but there has to be a sense of proportion, balance and responsible fairness in discussing the events and developments by the media.

In a vast country like India with population of around 1250 million, undesirable utterances and acts are bound to take place on any given day in one corner of the country or the other. This would be so, since vast segment of the national population still live below poverty line without adequate educational and skill acquisition opportunities and job prospects and section of the affluent and privileged class of society seem to think that they can get away with any wrong doings.

Media has gone haywire

Unfortunately, the Indian media appear to have gone haywire and do not seem to have a code of conduct in reporting matters and events and discussing various view points.

All that is required to get media space for any politician or activist is to say or do something that is obnoxious, which would be immediately highlighted by the visual and print media. There are many good things happening in the country which are rarely discussed at national level and seem to be of no interest to the Indian media. This attitude of media is causing problems for Mr. Modi in shaping a climate of confidence and progress in the country.

Negative noise made by Indian media has now reached such feverish level that Mr. Modi has to personally express his views on matters which really deserve to be ignored by the Prime Minister.

Any abuse good enough for the media

A member of parliament belonging to the ruling BJP made a number of allegations and criticisms against the Governor of Reserve Bank of India who is held in high esteem by many people as a knowledgeable person who has done excellent work. Though it is obvious that the criticisms are motivated and half baked and even personal to some extent, the media has been discussing this issue so extensively as if it is a matter of national priority. Mr. Modi has to speak to stop this ridiculous observations against the respected financial expert.

Similarly, the scientists and engineers working in Koodankulam nuclear power plant were criticized by some activists in such harsh terms as if they are anti nationals and several of the scientists and those who supported the nuclear power project were verbally abused. Media worked over time to publicise such harsh criticisms, unconcerned about the harm that it would cause to the morale of the hard working technologists. Finally, the nuclear plant has been successfully commissioned and has been dedicated to the nation. However, the media do not seem to think that it is necessary to applaud the scientists for their efforts, which are viewed with admiration by several discerning technologists abroad.

All of a sudden, a national debate was started on so called intolerance in India. The media gave so much of importance to the politicians who accused Modi government of promoting intolerance, for which there is no basis. Then, the media stopped discussing the so called intolerance after the elections in a few states.

One of the Chief Ministers called Mr. Modi as coward and psychopath and the media gave huge publicity to such verbal abuse and obviously this was what wanted by the man who made such uncharitable remarks.

There are several other instances that can readily be cited to prove the fact that Indian media is focused on creating a public opinion largely based on negatives rather than positives. Possibly, the media houses seem to think that this would be the best “strategy” to attract viewership and build media business.

Challenge for Mr. Modi

Even after Mr. Modi’s forthcoming Independence Day speech that would call upon the country men to look forward and work hard with scientific temperament, the Indian media and the preachers of negativism are unlikely to change.

The challenge for Mr. Modi is on how to build a positive mood and climate in the country inspite of the Indian media and the free wheeling activists ,who seem to think that negative criticism is the hall mark of vibrant democracy. Can it be so?

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.

One thought on “Independence Day Thoughts: Is India Paying Too Big A Price For Media Freedom? – OpEd

  • August 15, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Well done. With very few exceptions media is only interested in making money and in the greedy competition process it is recklessly careless as to the harm that it inflict on the nation, including national security. However, political parties and ultimately the people must also accept responsibility for feeding the frenzy of the media in this regard over the years. Good governance cannot be achieved by tamaasha. Much time and energy are being wasted away.


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