February 14, 2007

The Angst about "Sleeping Indian Media"

A respected retired Indian journalist forwards an email expressing deep angst about the quality of Indian print and television media. It is dismayed that what used to be respectable "mainstream" print media is now slipping into tabloid journalism. The latest example cited is the failure to report the killing by terrorist outfits in Kashmir of an Army major just as acquittal of a popular Bollywood star on charges of stashing weaponry at his home during the 1992-93 bomb blasts and riots in Mumbai was all over the news:

Star versus 'Star'

The body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead at Anantnag [in Indian Kashmir], was cremated with full military honours at Thane [near Mumbai] on Wednesday [Feb 7, 2007].

On Tuesday a news swept across all the news channels 'Sanjay Datt relieved by the court'. [....] experts like Salman Khan saying 'He is a good person. We knew he will come out clean', Mr. Big B [Superstar Amitabh Bacchan saying] 'Datt family and our family have relations for years. He's a good kid. He is like elder brother to [my son] Abhishek'. [...] sister Priya Datt 'we can sleep well tonight. It's a great relief'.

In other news, Parliament was mad at Indian team for performing bad; Shah Rukh Khan replaces Big B in KBC [Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire] and Sonia [Gandhi] asked the PM to consider reducing petroleum prices (I wonder who's the PM. [...] but most of the emphasis was given on Sanjay Datt's "phoenix like" comeback from the ashes of terrorist charges.

In my humble opinion, Indian media's slumber is much more than missing a soldier's sacrifice or pandering to what sells. It is also about propagating the "India Superpowering" belief with the "life imitates media" arrogance displayed in the Indian-brand festooned Times Square.

Patriotism sells. Everywhere. Sometimes for years before enough people start asking the obvious questions. Anything that detracts the "feel-good" patriotism is at best an annoying inconvenience and at worst "anti-national". The distractions include human rights abuses, terrorists killing soldiers, farmer suicides or forced acquisition of farmers' lands in the name of Special Economic Zones.

Of course, convenient slumber isn't the exclusive domain of the Indian media. The US media wishfully denied inconvenient truths about the Iraq war as long as it could. Under the pretext of protecting sources, it unwittingly shielded, as long as possible, Libby and other White House operatives from the worst crimes of abuse of power.

The sobering and reassuring truth is that the US media was shocked out of its slumber by real-life players like whistle blowing diplomats and the political leadership.

The same is required in India. One can blame, and thus flatter, the media only so much.

No comments: