Perception and reality

BY pramod kumar| IN Media Practice | 29/07/2011
"Perception" is another tool which is frequently used by the media to denigrate a person or an idea and also as a force multiplier in furthering the negative aspects of a situation,
It is evident from the way some recent stories have been covered by some of our media stalwarts that even the basic tenets and ethical norms of journalism have been discarded.
 Take the case of Mr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri Indian who became an American citizen and chose to be a paid agent of Pakistan`s ISI. He ran an organization “Kashmiri American Council” to lobby for Pakistan`s dubious Kashmir interests in USA. His arrest for illegal lobbying in USA has stirred a hornet`s nest and has naturally aroused an adverse reaction in our country and so needed to be exposed by our media too. More so, since the prominent people, including journalists, public figures and human rights` activists, had taken part in the seminars and conferences organized by Mr. Fai and had accepted his hospitality and air-tickets. It is to be assumed that they participated only because they were unaware of Mr. Fai`s dubious connections with the ISI and in their naivety, failed to check Mr. Fai`s credentials before accepting his invitations. The Indian participants include luminaries like Justice Rajinder Sachar, Kuldip Nayyar, Dileep Padgaonkar, Professor Kamal Mitra Chinoy, Gautam Navlakha, Ved Bhasin and others.
However, a prominent TV News Channel, Times Now, part of the largest media house of India (which has been a front-runner in devaluing editorial independence and giving marketing precedence over the editor) decided to invite some of the Indian participants to take part in a studio discussion and then chose to practically humiliate them for being gullible, acting against the interests of the country, endorsing, if not toeing the “enemy`s” line for the sake of a free junket to America. This channel was conscious of its right to free speech but was spiteful of others right to air their views, no matter how discordant or unpalatable and at variance with those of the government of the day or what is perceived to be the general consensus.
 “Perception” is another tool which is frequently used by the media to denigrate a person or an idea and also as a force multiplier in furthering the negative aspects of a situation. The media, with its distorted and lop-sided treatment will help create and then spread a “perception” to use it for its less than honourable purpose/agenda. The anchors like Mr. Arnab Goswami, Rahul Kanwal, Barkha Dutt/Sonia Singh/Nidhi Razdan et al when faced with a rebuttal invariably come up with “but the perception is” to close the argument. This channel (Times Now) true to its norm of high decibel and low reason, was strident and insolent in the manner the Anchor treated Justice Sachar and particularly, Mr. Ved Bhasin. It is  a sad day when a prominent player of media tries  to stifle a dissenting voice. Another print stalwart, Mr. S Gurumurthy  who has succeeded in raising half truths and sheer gossip to the levels of profundity tried to get even with his opponent Mr. Harish Khare (a former bureau chief of the Hindu) and  included his name in the list of those who accepted Mr. Fai`s invitations and Mr. Khare had to issue a statement to refute it.
Another instance is the way the trial of the 2G scam is being covered. In this case, practically every TV news channel and most of the print media is having a field day in pillorying a “prospective” accused Mr. Raja as well as both Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. P Chidambaram. It is quite mystifying that the anchors/reporters either do not understand the issues involved or they pretend to do so that they may aggravate the “charges” against Raja and by implication against PM and the then FM. More sensational, more lurid the way the day’s proceedings in the trial court are conveyed to the viewers/readers, the better for the media. During the day, the “accused” go through a trial in front of a Judge and the same evening they must “appear” before the kangaroo courts organized in the TV studios. A case of double jeopardy indeed.
Here again the same TV Channel (Times Now) with “hyper nationalism” and “champion of probity” being its USP, was keen on demonizing Mr. Raja and by implication the UPA Government. If any participant invited by the channel dared to express an opinion not in consonance with that of the anchor, he was cut short and the camera and audio moved to someone who was endorsing the anchor`s line. There was no appreciation of the fact that Mr. Raja had not yet been made even an accused. The proceedings in the Court were to enable the judge to decide whether or not to frame the charges against Mr. Raja. It is perturbing to think of what our media will do when the case reaches the actual trial stage.
The media is creating an environment where the “accused” persons are being denied their say or having it distorted. This is negation of the democratic rights of every citizen of the country. In any case the 2G Scam trial does not appear to be an open and shut case and the media must be scrupulous in displaying its impartiality while covering it. Sadly, it has done away with the elementary decency of maintaining  the distinction between an accused and a convict. For the sake of sensationalism, mere allegation and some waving of “proof” in the studio is enough to crucify the accused person.
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