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Mainstream Media: The New Court Of Trial?

Media, often considered the fourth pillar of democracy, acts as a bridge between the government and masses. It is responsible for highlighting the matters of importance to shed light on them. A responsible media is true to its ethics and presents unbiased factual reports. Lately, the media in the country has been under the gun for its faulty mannerisms. Journalistic ethics have been questioned and true biases are presented. One-sided stories and shrewd news hour debates which make a good TRP are broadcasted. The on-ground reality seems like a far fetched idea while the anchors scream at the top of the voices.

Media trials are when a news channel/paper or social media blog gives their sole verdict while an investigation of a case is going on before a court of law has intervened. It creates split narratives in the mind of the masses leading to sensationalisation, false narratives, a threat to one’s safety and fake news. Opinions expressed by a media house should be unbiased in form presenting facts and both sides on a story. It is imperative to understand that giving verdicts or judgments about any case does not fall under the purview of the media.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Tablighi Jamaat controversy blasted across all media channels. The new hour debates rightly pointed out that a religious meeting was wrong given the time and situation. However, it also presented their deep-rooted prejudices against a religious minority in the country leading to Muslims, in general, being the target in the public eye. Disgusting hashtags like ‘bio-jihad’ trended all over social media and many went onto say that the ‘jaamatis’ were sent to ‘spread’ the virus across India, giving a narrative which was not proven in legal discourse. Recently, the Bombay High Court ruled a judgement calling the jamatis mere ‘scapegoats’ and quashed the FIRs registered against the concerned in this case.

A video is doing rounds on Twitter today by a media channel called ‘Sudharshan TV’, which presents a clear case of prejudice and disgusting journalism, to say the least. Suresh Chavhanke, a news anchor of the mentioned channel dramatically ‘reveals’ how Muslim citizens of the country are occupying positions in governmental jobs despite the examination to which being one of the toughest. He further went onto to call students of the Jamia Millia Islamia University, ‘jihadis’. The broadcast would ‘reveal’ the occupation of Muslims in the bureaucracy. The video contains the hashtag “UPSC_Jihad”.

The sheer hate and torment against a community is visible in the video. This channel has proclaimed that a community is apparently rigging its way into the bureaucratic framework. It has been widely condemned by several activists and some journalists.

The Indian Police Federation tweeted against it saying, “The hate story carried on a Noida TV channel against minority candidates joining IAS /IPS is dangerous bigotry. We refrain from retweeting it because it is pure venom. We hope #NewsBroadcastingStandardsAuthority, #UPPolice and concerned government authorities take strict action.”

The case of Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged murder moved up for CBI investigation with due credits to media channels for their constant pressure. However, all journalistic ethics were forgotten in the process. Even before the due process could take place, Rhea Chakraborty who was Rajput’s partner has been labelled in the most disrespectful manner.

The investigation is taking its place and the CBI is doing their job. The media is placed outside Chakraborty's home. The brazen misogyny has led these news channels to call her a ‘Bengali Witch’ and death threats. The media has already ‘proven’ that she is guilty as charged. Republic TV presented their ratings and viewership recently which was at its highest. So the question here is, are they after justice or ratings? She might be guilty or not, but, the media’s job should have just been of reporting the updates and facts.

The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has decided to conduct the NEET and JEE examinations amidst the pandemic. There have been protests on social media against the decision however; mainstream media has chosen to negate the plight of students. Caste-based atrocities against Dalits mostly goes unreported in the papers and you will never find a news hour debate solely dedicated to an issue like so.

The discourse of Indian Media has changed in present times and it is not for the good. On the mission to chase viewers, it has forgotten what real journalism looks like. More than news, it is a representation of a ‘courtroom drama’ which stems from internalised prejudices, insensitivity and sheer hate.

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