Media Vs Legislature …both need introspection
Columns, In Black & White

Media Vs Legislature …both need introspection

The Press is perspiring and seething with anger after K.B. Koliwad, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, announced the formation of a House Committee to suggest measures to monitor and regulate the functioning of Media in Karnataka.

This decision was taken during the Budget Session after a four-hour discussion! Yes, instead of discussing the Budget, the impending drought and lack of drinking water, they were busy media-bashing.

Interestingly, most of the people who aggressively called for monitoring the Media were the ones who had felt the heat after Media had done an exposé on them.  One honourable member pleaded with the Speaker, “Please give us protection from electronic media or else we cannot continue in public life.” Ayoo paapa… but who will give public protection against the corruption by politicians? Isn’t it Media’s job along with Judiciary to do that? By the way this was the member who was videographed talking about vote-for-cash in 2016 Rajya Sabha election. So was it wrong of the Media to expose him?

Then there was another honourable member, who also wanted to clamp down on Media.  We guess he did not like the fact that the Media asked him the uncomfortable question about why, while farmers were committing suicide due to debt, his son was studying in an expensive foreign University. Was it wrong of the Media to question this hypocrisy?

Another honourable member too said he was victim of Media sensationalism as the Media had unfairly named him a  “Rowdy MLA.”  But then the Media showed the CCTV footage where he was assaulting a Toll Booth Manager…Was this wrong?

Yet another honourable member said that a Journalist from Mysuru who was once “care of footpath” was now a millionaire in Bengaluru and questioned how he made so much money. This charge is a serious one, which hits at the very core of Journalism — credibility. Yet the Mysuru District Journalists Association (MDJA) was quiet.

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Why didn’t the Association ask the MLA to name the Journalist so it could conduct an enquiry and if corruption was proved remove him from the Press Club and let the law take its course? Why didn’t the MLA himself file a complaint against such a corrupt Journalist?

Now the silence of the Mysuru District Journalists Association is raising the question… “Is MDJA silent because some of its Board members are themselves not ‘working journalists?!’” This being the case, how can we as Journalists point fingers at the unprofessionalism of the government? It’s a tragedy.

Also may be like how the whole Airline Industry, which has boycotted the Shiv Sena MLA, who hit an airline staff, the Media too can boycott all programmes of the MLAs, who wanted the Media suffocated… After all, they themselves say they don’t want to be in the news.

Politicians have to understand that the Media does not put only their good news but also the bad, that’s what makes it a balanced report and that is why people trust such a newspaper.

Politicians also should know that we the Press are the watchdogs of Democracy. We bark and wake up the owners of this Nation, the People, so they can confront the Dacoits who are looting their Country.

Yes, the Media’s job is to take on the establishment. If the politicians hate the Media, if they want to shut the Media, then it usually means we are doing our jobs well. But…

…all of us are not. There continues to be the menace of paid news and yellow journalism. If Journalists believe this is not true then they are being insincere.  Journalists need to introspect. They must remember in the controversial list of G-category sites allotted by former CM B.S. Yeddyurappa, 13 were Journalists. Why didn’t the Media which demands resignation of politicians at the drop of a hat demand the ban of these 13 journalists?

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Overtime, credibility of a Journalist has dwindled as rapidly as that of a politician. Concerned, credible, intellectual, well-read Journalists, especially in Tier-2 cities are far and few. Personally, I have seen Journalists asking hotels to send their food and liquor bills to politicians.

I have also been at the receiving end of yellow journalism when one newspaper accused me of taking rupees one crore bribe to withdraw a criminal case filed against a Minister who had hit one of my Reporters. When I called for clarification, the person on the other end sounded like a threatening thug rather than a thinking Journalist.

In fact, now-a-days Media Houses constantly monitor their Journalists’ activities. This is the situation in not just Tier-2 cities. And this is an old problem. Remember when the then Chief Election Commissioner  T. N. Seshan was criticising the Media, the Journalists reminded him that it was the same Media that spread word of his good work. Seshan curtly retorted, “If my chastity is being proclaimed by prostitutes, I don’t want such chastity.”

For now, Journalists, while exposing skeletons in others’ closets, should open their own and clean it out. Else, they will lose credibility and justify the mocking term ‘generalist’ and the call to gag them. Worse…with the loss of credibility of Media…. the durability of our Democracy too will be destroyed.

e-mail: [email protected]

March 25, 2017

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