Media hypocrisy: Why Justice Katju is right on Anna stir
During the Anna Hazare movement, a section of the media crawled when it was not even required to bend.
Ninety percent of Indians are fools, says Justice Markandey Katju. Where on earth did he get that number from? But let that go for now. He is bang on in most of his observations he made in the Indian Express, particularly on the media and the Anna Hazare movement. He could have been a bit subtler though.
He says the Jan Lokpal Bill of Anna Hazare would create a Frankenstein of a parallel bureaucracy. At least 50,000-55,000 Lokpals would be required to be appointed to handle complaints against all government employees in the country. A large number of this new bureaucracy would end up as blackmailers, he said. This is only one of the many problems with the draft bill which a section of the vocal media refused acknowledge when the anti-corruption movement was at its loudest.
Those who raised valid questions were branded pro-government and anti-people. They were bullied into silence by rampaging television anchors, opinion writers in newspapers and other media. The champions of the Lokpal cause — should we say Team Anna’s cause. There’s a difference between the two — sacrificed the fundamental principles of journalism such as objectivity, neutrality and sense of balance. In the end, it was the media that ended up looking immature, irresponsible and even ignorant.
The biggest power with the media is to ask questions, the right ones of course, and inform the public. Few were asking tough questions to Team Anna then. Why a Lokpal? Is it the best solution available to tackle corruption? Are there other simpler solutions to the problem? Interestingly, there are better solutions but even now the media have shown little inclination to discuss that.
Then if a Lokpal, why Jan Lokpal? Is it the best option available? All alternate suggestions — many of them intelligent — were mocked at, rubbished and declared as the government’s dirty handiwork.
Let the truth be told. It lacked media lacked the spine to stand up and be counted. When it started asking the right questions towards the end of last year the movement collapsed.
In the process, this section of the media was attacking the very idea of democracy itself. How can a bunch of civil society activists and a gaggle of media personalities impose something on the nation? Who gave them the the right to speak for all people? They just sought to stifle every opposition from any quarters, any plea for a sincere debate on Lokpal. Isn’t the idea of democracy about tolerance to different opinions?
Let’s take a slightly exaggerated scenario for consideration. What if such a loud and influential combination with enough street power starts demanding that the country attack Pakistan? It is possible an uncritical media would seek to justify the popular clamour and root for it. It’s TRPs and eyeballs they are interested in. The nation— the easy excuse in all media— hardly matters.
Justice Katju, if at all he is serious about journalism, must force a code of ethics on the media. It cannot be a law unto itself. More importantly, it must stop playing to the gallery. It’s not the job of the media. It has more serious things to do than be flag-bearers for excitable crowds with limited understanding of critical issues.
About 90 percent of Indians being fools, well, it will need a proper survey. It is possible, none of them would come close to Katju’s estimation.
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With vote banks on mind, politicians have to treat with respect every perceived slight to target groups.