The Internal Mute Button3 min read
News is not a commodity that can be sold to the highest bidder. By encouraging self-censorship, we are making the media redundant. Self- censorship has penetrated all strata of media, whether it is the corporate moguls or student run news organizations. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, for instance has systematically trickled down news which affects their publicity since its seizure of Network 18.
It even prevails in areas such as ordinary college events. Recently the organisers of Utsav 2015, barred our reporter from covering their event on the accusation that we could post information which goes against their interest. They offered a concession but on the condition that all reports about the event would be filtered through them. TMJ was also belittled by the authorities for being only a student run organization and that we could not hope for the benefits that a reporter of ‘The Hindu’ or ‘The Times of India’ enjoys. While this may not compare in scale and size to Reliance’s monopolisation of news, it still doesn’t change the severity of the argument. Monopoly of news should be fought across all levels – big or small.
Our retort to the concerned authorities:
We accept your indictment of our coverage. But we would like to remind you that TMJ is a voluntary initiative taken up by students in Manipal. We are not claiming to be professionals. We have a group of students who report events and news happening in Manipal and you cannot expect us to turn professionals overnight because there is a huge learning curve in between. Even the best of professionals went through that learning curve and if you discourage us at the first step, you will never know our true potential. I believed in a society where you can dream to reach the sky but here, the rug is being pulled from under you even before you have taken off from the ground.
I am writing this piece because keeping silent is a danger in itself. Self-censorship or that internal mute button, which stops you from fighting for your freedom of speech is not an option today. Not when the law itself is pushing society towards an era of free speech by taking down Section 66 A of IT Act. Self-censorship, being the path of least resistance is often the safest route to take but once you stop yourself from voicing your thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception.
We regret that we have been denied the permission to cover one of Manipal’s biggest events but we refuse to give the organisers liberty over news on our website. Journalists are expected to report facts. The profession has always encouraged the truth and we do not act as a mouth-piece for any individual or organisation – not even Manipal University. We may have lost the story, but we do not intend to lose our integrity.
Prajwal Bhat is a reporter at The Manipal Journal and a student of School of Communication.
The views expressed in the blog are personal.