Radicalised Indian media is destroying the country’s democracy, Ramon Magsaysay award-winning journalist Ravish Kumar said while delivering a talk on the ‘Future of media’ at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Saturday evening.
“Most mainstream-media platforms in India have become completely polarised. They toe the majoritarian ideology and thrive by driving a wedge between communities. They are destroying our democracy,” said Kumar, widely regarded as a lone dissident voice in India’s unquestioning media landscape.
Lamenting falling journalistic standards, the NDTV anchor said the day is not far when news channels in India will compete with each other to take credit for communal riots caused by their hate-filled candard masquerading as news reports. Kumar was accompanied by Sonia Singh, editorial director of NDTV whose founder, media personality, Prannoy Roy was due to attend the book fair as well but couldn’t make it due to travel restrictions.
“Unfortunately, Prannoy Roy can’t travel out of India as our investigative agencies have issued a lookout notice against him. I guess this sums up the state of affairs in our country,” said Singh. She said Indian media was facing a crisis of credibility and needed to introspect.
“Journalists are chroniclers of history, not its stenographers. Sadly instead of being watchdogs they have become lapdogs in recent years, It’s about time Indian TV chanels lived up to their responsibility of being public broadcasters, asked questions and held those in power accountable. “If Indian democracy has to thrive, its media has to fulfil its national duty,” she said.
Reflecting on Saturday’s court verdict on the vexed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, Kumar praised his countrymen for exercising restraint and maintaining peace and harmony.
“It’s remarkable that not a single incident of violence has been reported from anywhere in India despite the best efforts of certain media houses to stoke communal passions,” he said. “It looks like people have wisened up to their nefarious designs,” he added.
Kumar said he’s intrigued that the Supreme Court has termed the damage, desecration and demolition of Babri Masjid illegal but not passed any strictures against those behind the illegal acts. “It’s a dichotomy that the very people responsible for the razing of the mosque have been entrusted with the responsibility of setting up a trust that would eventually pave the way for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya,” he said. “Shouldn’t they be called out by the media and questioned in the wake of the court judgement?” he asked.
Towards the end, both journalists took questions from the audience which included prominent Indian poet and novelist Vikram Seth. The 11-day Sharjah International Book Fair drew to a close on Saturday.