Sir— The internet and the electronic media have changed the way we share information (“ Taming the monster ’’, May 11). The media in India are often considered to be a saviour, because they let people know the facts of cases without bias. But one must ask a question here: how liberal should the media be? Should the media be given the right to pry into the internal workings of governments? In India, where voices against the government usually go unheard, the media are expected to report malpractices, if any.
But, unfortunately, sometimes the media just provide grist to gossip mills. They continued ad nauseam about the lok pal agitation, almost influencing the government’s decision on the issue. Authorities in the government failed to convey the information they wanted to put across as the people were swayed constantly by the media campaign.
It has been alleged that people are using the internet to deliberately defame politicians by posting their caricatures. A professor of Jadavpur University was imprisoned because he had forwarded a cartoon featuring the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. Some spiritual gurus have used the media as a surfboard to ride on the waves of peoples’ thoughts. Amidst all this frenzy, people seem to forget that the job of the media is to convey information, not to govern.
The media should ideally expose malpractices — as the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, did. Unfortunately, this man — who exposed the US army’s unethical killings in Afghanistan and forced the United Progressive Alliance government to debate the issue of money being stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks — was subjected to investigations because of international pressure.
The act of whistleblowing is permissible as long as it does not meddle with security issues. A national daily had earlier reported that troops of the Indian army had made an unauthorized move towards Delhi under the direction of the army chief. The government later dismissed the news as nonsense. In such a situation, it is the duty of the government to tame the potentially dangerous media monster while not taking away its freedom.
Sir— The scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, the erstwhile News of the World, had penetrated deep into the administrative set-up of Britain. It involved unethical tampering with the voicemail of a dead girl’s phone in the quest for a sensational headline for the newspaper. The scandal was finally unearthed thanks to the fearless investigative journalism conducted by The Guardian.The intrusive nature of the media had been an issue in the West for a long time. It was claimed that it were the paparazzi that had chased Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed to their deaths.
Barring a few instances of minor transgressions, the Indian media, however, have been far from being intrusive till now. So it would be too harsh to impose any restriction on our Fourth Estate. Such a measure would ruin the massive prospects of a growing industry. The recent furore over our state government’s decision to shun some media houses is worth mentioning here.
With an eye on the target rating points, some television channels often hasten to identify the suspects of a crime, making the job difficult for the cops. At the same time, certain incidents, like that involving a court’s decision to fine a TV channel a sum of Rs 100 crore for confusing the identity of a former Supreme Court judge, seem disproportionate, as pointed out by Swapan Dasgupta. There is no denying that “The Indian media haven’t quite bothered to dispense with the rotten apples in their own baskets.” So self-regulation may be necessary. However, journalism here is not so ‘predatory’ as that of the Murdoch-led industry, although biased reports are published now and then.
Sir— The Maharashtra government’s order to its forest guards to shoot poachers on sight is a positive step. It will prevent poaching not just of tigers but of all wild animals. This move, which was long overdue, should be adopted by all the states. Those who fell trees in forests should also be punished in the same way. I would go a step further and suggest that no action should be taken against the forest guards in such cases.