“Media should focus on serving people, not only the privileged and powerful”: Siddharth Varadarajan
Mangalore: Founding editor of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan delivered a lecture at the B. V. Kakkilaya Memorial Oration on November 4 at St. Aloysius College in Mangalore.
A former editor with The Hindu and recipient of several awards such as the Ramnath Goenka award for Journalist of the Year (Print) in 2010, delivered the lecture on the topic, ‘What is happening to the media in India’.
Addressing a large audience comprising of students, journalists, and political leaders, he emphasised on how a large section of the media has lost its news values, ethics, as they no longer care about editorial standards. The media, he said, has now become a “vastly profit-driven business” rather than focusing on public opinion and welfare.
“Five years ago, if we had evaluated the state of media, we could see that it was way freer. Discussions could be openly held, while criticism was openly accepted. But now there is a suppression of media,” he said. He also discussed how the media is being judged as nationalist or anti-national based on faulty assumptions.
He also drew attention to the ignorance of facts by revisiting the times of demonetization, when prominent media outlets indulged in spreading unverified information such as ‘GPS chip in the 2000 rupee note’. Additionally, he also cited the case of the display of doctored videos against a JNU student, which led to the harassment of a student and defamation of one of the prime campuses of India.
“Media is more interested in who says Vande Mataram or not, than the number of children dying in public hospitals, which is appalling. They should focus on serving the people, rather than just the ones who are privileged and powerful,” he said, pressing on the fact that the media is facing enormous pressure from various sources.
He expressed concern about the suppression of the media by the ruling union as well as state governments and cited several examples, including his own. The Hindustan Times which had a column called the ‘Hate Tracker’, that kept an account of all the hate crimes committed in the country since 2013, had to be taken down due to the pressure by the ruling party at the center as they were accused too.“The Wire itself is fighting 280 crore rupees of defamation cases despite having all the evidence to back their facts,” he said.
Speaking about how several media channels are not functioning as the fourth estate, which by criticism ensures fair governance, he compared them to being democratic versions of the ‘North Korean Media’, who always find ways of justifying the ruling party’s actions. “Like Ravish Kumar called such media as Ghodi media, they remain a lapdog of the ruling government.”
Additionally, he also drew parallels between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, by comparing the media situation of the two countries; one where there is broad civic freedom and media is held in high regard, and another where there are indirect futile attempts to shut down the flow of information.
He concluded his talk by expressing satisfaction on the firm stance adopted by few media outlets in the country and highlighted the role of the urban middle class in bringing changes for better functioning of the media, by supporting independent media outlets.
Featured image courtesy: Arsha K A
Edited by Shriya Ramakrishnan