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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2395

Cobra post Sting Reinforce Doubts About Media Fairness

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

It was, of course, expected that the major sections of the media will ignore the findings of a Cobrapost sting operation because it shows them in poor light as paddlers in prejudice and pelf. It has hardly been a secret that the media’s advocacy of honesty and fair play is, with few exceptions, a sham, rather a shame.

Even after making allowances for ‘doctoring’ the Cobrapost tapes, what comes out loud and clear is that assurance of plentiful cash will induce most of the so-called leaders of the media industry, proprietors, manger, editors and opinion makers to support the ruling dispensation and all that it stands for.

It hardly matters whether the ‘sting’ had failed to show any actual monetary transaction. That is not material since a crime is committed the moment someone in a position of authority demands money in lieu of doing something as a favour. It is secondary whether any money actually changed hands.

The so-called defence that some of the big media houses have offered after their representatives were caught on the tape showing willingness to work on an ‘agenda’ to support the ruling party’s espousal of Hindutva falls flat. It is so clichéd! And this is then topped with hackneyed words and phrases like ‘we believe in and practice highest standards of ethics’ and so on.

Do these words carry conviction? No! If they did we will be living in a utopian world where everybody is honest and upright. Impressions of ‘wrongdoings’ are hard to erase when the allegations conform to a visible or known pattern. That is to say, a person accused of illegally amassing wealth will not sound convincing in his or her defence if there are clear signs of an inexplicable jump in that person’s fortunes.

In the case of the media in India, it is no secret that there is a mysterious swing in support of the ruling dispensation and a corresponding reluctance and even refusal to take due notice of the opposite point of view.

To illustrate the point a few examples may be quoted. Official statistics show that communal harmony in the country has suffered a great deal in the last four years. The media has taken notice of it, but has it been done in a manner that compels action by the government?

By common consent, it was wrong on the part of the government to ‘fleece’ the consumer by not giving any relief when prices of crude oil had fallen drastically. Instead, the government is being applauded by many opinion makers for not bringing down the petroleum prices which have gone through the roof. Prices of many essential items of daily consumption keep going up but there is only a per forma mention about it in the media. It will appear as though raising voice against price rise is an ‘anti-national’ act.

The handing of the Kashmir situation is being praised but no critical appraisal of how or why the casualties—civilians as well as security and army personal—have risen to an all-time high. Is the government to be applauded for chest thumping when hundreds of villagers have to flee their homes because of firing from across the border? How does it show an ‘improvement’ in the situation (as noted by large sections of the media) at the border when the ‘much tor jawab’ (befitting reply) results in more killings on the Indian side?

In the pre-social media era it was possible for the media to hide their prejudices, often suspected to be “induced” by monetary gains. From around the time when India won its ‘second freedom’ in 1978 at the end of the emergency, the press in the country has been shining with the tagline of ‘free and fearless’.

Nobody seemed to notice that the ‘anti-establishment’ stance in the ‘free’ Press was backed by big business houses who picked their targets for vilification. Campaigns would be run against these targets, who included some of the mightiest in the land. In fact, the attacks on the high and mighty was supposed to establish the ‘free and fearless’ credentials of the media.

If there was any ‘retaliation’ against the Press in the past, an SOS call in the name of ‘freedom of the Press is in danger’ would ensure safety. True, the people in power tried to intimidate and arm-twist the critics but usually without much success. On the contrary, these tactics worked against the powers that be, showing them to be ‘fascists’ etc who had imperilled democracy.

But it looks different in the present scenario. It is rather mysterious that in a matter of less than four years, it has become an acceptable norm to shower encomiums on the rulers and reserve criticism for the Opposition. The well entrenched belief that journalists by training and upbringing are ‘anti-establishment’ stands on its head.

A clue about how the classical definition of journalism has been revised in India is provided by the Cobrapost sting. The larger section of the media has shut itself against its findings and raised doubts about the authenticity of the conversations taped in the Cobrapost sting. It cannot be anybody’s case that sting operations always provide incontrovertible proof. They can be and doctored.

But then on what basis did those who are today feigning ignorance or rejecting the Cobrapost sting supported sting operations in the past which seemed to suit their agenda against personalities and organisations? Those sting operations were also denounced and called fake by the victims. But did the media overlook the findings of those ‘stings’?

Whenever anything that exposes or annoys someone the affected person cries foul, damning the allegations as false; some even threaten to file defamation suits of crores of rupees. It is a different matter that in the end only a few unfortunate ones suffer on account of any sting operation because the allegations could not be proved in a court of law. But that rarely erases the impression of wrong doing against the ‘victim’ in the sting operation. With a lively social media, it will be hard to dispel the public impression that all is not well with our established media. Blacking out a sting operation on media houses may prove to be an exercise in futility.

- Asian Tribune -

Cobra post Sting Reinforce Doubts About Media Fairness
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