Amid Corona scare, Indian media races for TRP
‘Insensitive’ Indian media politicizing Corona virus
- Chanchal Manohar Singh
‘Insensitive’ Indian media politicizing Corona virus



Even when the entire world is in chaos over the spread of deadly Corona virus, the media in India is bracing up its race for ratings (TRP), exhibiting sheer insensitivities. Under the garb of political ideology, the media in India is still pursuing ‘ad hominem’ approach towards the situation. In simple terms we can say that the Indian media is prying on the human tragedy and havoc that corona virus is wreaking.
 
Not showing factual report, the media continues to create fear psychosis among the masses for the sake of rising TRP. They are compounding people’s problems and miseries, rather than looking at them with apathy. From the corners of palatial offices, media is peddling lies with all impunity, especially after the episode of recent ‘Nizamudin Markaz’. Since then, the Indian media is targeting particular community for the spread, thus invoking hatred among people against the community.

Media did not talk about labourers and workers thrown out of jobs by the 21-day lockout. Their source of income and day-to-day needs of grocery and other things did not touch the media reports. The media did not show how thousands of laborers have left for their villages without money and transport. According to The Wire, 22 workers died while proceeding without food and water on the Indian roads to return to their villages several hundred kilometers away from their place of work. Except, The Wire, no Indian media, has come forward to tell the number of deaths that occurred because of hunger and thirst on barren Indian roads.
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Media, unabashedly, always looking towards the government for financial support in the form of ads or help from a government’s friendly business houses are presenting programmers that serve the government and cover their failures. India’s media has played a crucial role in protecting country’s democracy since its independence from Britain in 1947. But currently journalists are either attacked for being neutral or they succumb to the political powers.
 
Since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the media has been highly controlled by the government, especially the airwaves. Modi has shrewdly cultivated the media to build a cult of personality that portrays him as the nation’s selfless saviour. At the same time, senior government officials have pressed news outlets — berating editors, cutting off advertising, ordering tax investigations — to ignore the uglier side of his party’s campaign to transform India from a tolerant, religiously diverse country into an assertively Hindu one.
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With the corona virus pandemic, BJP led government has gotten more blatant in his attempt to control coverage and, as with other difficult stories, some Indian news organizations seem eager to follow the suit. It is believed that right before announcement of lockdown on 1.3 billion people to avoid spread of corona virus, Modi and his government representatives had met with top news editors and owners and requested them to publish "inspiring and positive stories” about the government’s efforts. Then, after the lockdown stranded half a million migrant workers, with some dying along the highways, his lawyers persuaded the Supreme Court this week to order all media to "publish the official version” of coronavirus developments, although outlets are still allowed to carry independent reporting.
 
The Supreme Court of India directed the Media, including print, electronic and social media, to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that unverified news capable of causing panic is not disseminated. The apex court has noted that the migration of a large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months.
 
The Court observed that it was not possible for it to overlook the menace of fake news by electronic, print or social media because the panic-driven migration has caused untold suffering to those who acted on such news, causing some to lose their lives. The Court has said in the order that it does not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but at the same time has directed that the Media refer to and publish the official version about the developments. An association of leading broadcasters was quick to admire the court decision, which many intellectuals said was yet another attack on India’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
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Another dimension to the independence and role of media can be gauged from the hyper-active social media that continues to peddle disinformation and misinformation without any regulation. Facing defeat every moment by the fast-social media, the mainstream media is unable to understand, how to compete with social media which has been swarming its sphere-like locust. In new media, Mobile journalism has produced journalists, having natural temper for news. Hardly trained at eminent media schools, in big labs of cameras, dark rooms and expensive multiple software for mixing and providing the event’s background. But the Mobile Journalism is doing much better than tradition electronic media.
 
Social media and Mobile journalism also faces a big challenge from "fake news”, which political parties in their IT studios and some unethical persons produce it on behalf of officials, who are seen now where.  The news on Social media goes around into circulation much before the electronic media awakes at the Prime Time by gathering leaders and experts at the panel discussion tables, too much used repeated stale faces appear on TV shows speaking the postman language of their political party.
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Blinkered panel members come for a routine evening walk for a bland panel discussion knowing much before what another opponent member would say to counter. Sometimes they look like a court crier to show that they are doing their job to the best of ability.  Media on the panel is a palpable one supporting the anchor or the ruling party’s political line. Even some retired army Generals or other ranks play the role of ruling party’s spokesman. With social platforms giving rise to misinformation, the seemingly unstoppable rise of big tech and independent voices being squashed by commercial ownership. At a time when factual information is both scarcer and more essential than ever, we believe that each of us deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.
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