Advertisement
Monday, Nov 29, 2021
Outlook.com
ESSAY

Cut-Rate Democracy

Pay and they will publish you. It’s a short stop to doomsday from here for our media.

Cut-Rate Democracy
Illustration by Sandeep Adhwaryu
Cut-Rate Democracy
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Two years ago, when I told some of my more cynical fellow-tribals from the journalistic fraternity that I was about to complete a textbook on media ethics, they smirked. Media ethics? That’s an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, they said glibly. What became apparent to me then was that the image of the journalist in India has taken quite a battering. There are many among the aam admi who still trust the journo more than the hawaldar, the patwari or the magistrate and believe that he or she could articulate (if not redress) their grievances. But these days are disappearing fast.

It is not as if journalists were always glorified as crusaders and those who exposed corruption in high places. In 1981, Ashwini Sarin of the Indian Express broke the law to expose how poor women were being trafficked. He actually ‘purchased’ Kamala. A character based on Sarin was portrayed by Vijay Tendulkar as grasping and ambitious in a play called Kamala, subsequently made into a film. When sued for defamation and breach of copyright, the Marathi litterateur claimed that he had not read the Express articles before writing the play. But before and after Kamala, most journalists in popular cinema were the ‘good’ guys, fighting against the rich and the powerful and for the rights of the downtrodden. However, recently more and more films have taken to showing journalists as stupid and insensitive, in perpetual search of an ‘exclusive’ story that would ‘sell’ well. In A Wednesday, a PYT aka TV reporter is sarcastically told by a man who has just escaped being electrocuted how happy he feels now that he is being watched on millions of small screens.

Corruption in the media has been fictionalised across the world for many years. In 1941, Orson Welles scripted and directed the classic Citizen Kane about the rise and fall of a newspaper tycoon. The film was a thinly disguised biography of William Randolph Hearst, the US newspaper publisher whose introduction of screaming headlines and sensational reporting changed American journalism forever. On its release, Hearst banned his newspapers from reviewing the film. Citizen Kane traced the life of a man whose career in publishing was first motivated by ideals of public service but who eventually became a ruthless businessman willing to go to any length—including organising a murder—to be the first to report the ‘news’. In Ram Gopal Verma’s recent film Rann, a media tycoon (Amitabh Bachchan) committed to the principles of ethical journalism fights against his own son to bring out the truth. Peepli [Live] graphically highlights the venality of the media and how journalists use and abuse not just the underprivileged but their own comrades as well.

Advertisement

Outlook Newsletters

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Read More from Outlook

1st Test, Live: India, New Zealand Share Honours In Kanpur After Enthralling Day 5

1st Test, Live: India, New Zealand Share Honours In Kanpur After Enthralling Day 5

India are closing in on another famous victory at Green Park, Kanpur. This time against World Test champions New Zealand. Follow live coverage of India vs New Zealand first Test.

Omicron In India: Five Steps To Stop Outbreak Of New Covid-19 Variant

Omicron In India: Five Steps To Stop Outbreak Of New Covid-19 Variant

Cases of Omicron, the latest variant of Covid-19, have not yet been reported in India.

Omicron Shows Why Countries Need To Start Sharing Their Vaccines

Omicron Shows Why Countries Need To Start Sharing Their Vaccines

'Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders, our failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now coming back to haunt us', wrote former British PM Gordon Brown.

Omicron In India: How New Covid-19 Variant Is Impacting Travel Across States

Omicron In India: How New Covid-19 Variant Is Impacting Travel Across States

India has issued fresh travel restrictions for international travellers coming from 'at risk' nations in the wake of the Omicron outbreak across several countries in the world.

Advertisement