In the just concluded fast by Anna Hazare, the Indian media went berserk projecting Hazare’s Lokpal Bill  as a major tussle between the civil society and the government.


What an irony, imperialist nations had free press. One would expect TV channels and print media, enjoying the fruits of freedom, to value the freedom of their people and sovereignty and freedom of other nations. But they have seldom done so. Britain has a long history of free press and parliamentary democracy but its press and democratic polity stood for colonization and enslavement of nations, including India. The US media, taking pride in its tradition of freedom, has been ferociously offensive against the developing nations and their governments, be they Mosaddaq’s elected government in Iran, Allende’s in Chilli, Lumumba’s in Congo, Ho Chi Minh’s in Vietnam, Saddam’s crippled government in Iraq and so on. Media demonized its target governments, projected them as security threats and created situations for the state to militarily intervene and overtake.

The irony clears when one recognizes that the press in these countries is owned by corporate and business sector hence serves only the interests of the sector it belongs to. India is a new entrant to free market economy. Prior to 1991, the press though largely owned by big business had some influence of the national movement hence maintained a semblance of objectivity. A significant shift in media’s attitude came during the Ram temple movement when many news papers openly sided with the movement shunning objectivity and secular values. With the implementation of new economic policy of liberalization and globalization in 1991, huge number of private TV channels came into play and they became assertive proponents of market forces. They flooded the viewers with serials, devoid of social concerns and realism, only promoting fantasy, luxury and authority, negating national quest for social and economic equality, self reliance and freedom at the grassroots (gram swarajya). They borrowed myopic US vision on terrorism and supported wars on national sovereignty and freedom of nations. They aggressively campaigned for policies that led to rapid appropriation of national resources by the corporate sector and widening of gulf between the elite and the masses.


The high point in media assertiveness came in just concluded fast by Anna Hazare. It projected Lokpal Bill as a major tussle between the civil society and the government, built the campaign into an exciting fight, religiously portraying Anna and his team 24 hours a day for 15 days as a messiah. If you see a campaign as a conflict between two parties objectivity demands adequate coverage be given to both the sides. But here it was totally one sided. The image of politicians in power was severely beaten while no finger was raised on those who manoeuvre, pressurize, fund, and bribe the politicians and the system and reap the real benefits of corruption. In a free market economy the traders, industrialists and corporate sector are the primary driving force. It was no surprise that these sections and their close allies, the middle classes, were with this campaign whole heartedly. Delhi shop keepers kept their shops and establishments closed for a day in solidarity and so on. They saw no threat to their practice of hoarding that leads to acute price rise, or real estate operations that run mainly on black money. In fact they used it as an instrument to frighten the government so that the latter could never dare ignore their interests.


Political system and polity, how so ever weak and corrupt they may seem today, are the only way masses could restrain the market forces and move towards equity and grassroots freedom. Cleaner polity will not come from top. It will evolve from below. Any genuine movement at the grassroots that addresses the issue affecting people at that level will contribute in this endeavour. The media must follow a code of conduct, a discipline to report events objectively, give programs that strengthen the culture of truth, nonviolence and simplicity. The government has the responsibility to evolve such a code and implement it. Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj could be a good guideline for responsible journalism and media.

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