Prominent journalist Siddharth Varadarajan on Thursday said the media in India has turned into a “beast”, and urged journalists to emerge strong enough to overcome “external pulls and pressures” and not succumb to self-censorship. He also said that “communalisation” of editorial content in a section of media, which was non-existent a few years ago, was rampant now.
I am not targeting the entire media but I am talking about a major section of media in India. Today we have a beast, an animal that bears little resemblance to what professional journalism should be like,” Varadarajan said at a function where the 12th volume of “Aina Numa” by renowned journalist and parliamentarian Shamim Ahmad Shamim was released.
“Twenty to thirty years ago it was difficult to find blatant communal reporting. But today news anchors and channels do it day in and day out. Today media channels and journalists are putting drops of poison in people’s mind as the agenda is to polarise the country along Hindu versus Muslim lines,” said Varadarajan.
The senior journalist said “state actors, non-state actors and corporate houses” are pressuring media houses in various ways, adding that several national media television networks themselves are to be blamed for openly toeing the line of “right-wing communal forces”.
“It is a ridiculous spectacle that a day has come when the police are defining journalism. This is intolerable but it is also unfortunate that doors for dialogue and discussion are getting shut in television media. What can one say when a news channel embraces agenda of the Sangh Parivar and an anchor has the audacity to push a panellist into making inflammatory statements,” said Varadarajan.
Condemning beating of local journalists by government forces at the encounter site in Fateh Kadal on Wednesday, Varadarajan said the media fraternity across India is neglecting Kashmiri journalists.
“Today my colleagues in Delhi have issued a very strong statement against journalists being attacked in the heart of city by police and assault of women journalists by rightwing activists in Sabarimala in Kerala. But what has happened in the Valley is an ongoing threat to the ability of mediapersons to discharge their duties. The pressure on Kashmiri journalists has gone off the radar. The way internet is snapped here causing trouble to media persons is a form of a huge communication gag,” said Varadarajan.
Recounting his deep association with Shujaat Bukari, who was assassinated in June this year, he said “vilification and labelling” of journalists on social media is a latest threatening trend.