Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Honest journalism cannot be anything but ‘political’

Since every journalist is first and foremost a citizen and a member of the society, he/she cannot ignore the ‘Lokneeti’ expressed through movements by the citizens to realise their legitimate democratic rights.

In the very ‘political’ world that we live in, every human occupation, including journalism, cannot be anything but ‘political’, I believe.

Even if you believe that you are not aligned to any particular interest, you actually are without fully realising it. Your activity or passivity is useful to some interest group.

Some time ago I read Yogendra Yadav writing that ‘Supposing you wish to eradicate tuberculosis from the country, envision how you will go about doing it. It will be impossible for you to envision a road-map that will not involve significant political engagement’.

It’s important, however, how we define ‘politics’ and ‘political’.

All popular movements and struggles of workers, farmers, Dalit and tribal communities, women are ‘political,’ but they represent citizens’ aspirations to realise their legitimate democratic rights --- to have more control on their lives by having a say in the formulation and conduct of public policy.

Their politics is different from politics between political parties, such as the politics between Congress and BJP.

The latter is no longer about advancing democratic or Constitutional objectives.

Most political parties have become private elitist clubs and ceased to be the forums for democratic participation, discussion and representation of the interests of the common citizens or the society at large.

I believe that the popular movements and struggles represent ‘Lokneeti,’ which is what we should be engaging in, if we call ourselves a democratic society.

(I believe the term ‘Lokneeti’ was widely used in the social democratic movement inspired by the great Jayaprakash Narayan.)

Party politics is ‘Rajneeti’, which is all about grabbing power and then enriching oneself and other members of one’s private club.

Since all journalism owes its existence to democracy --- (one can’t imagine any significant amount of meaningful journalism happening in non-democratic societies) --- and one of the fundamental principles of journalism is to uphold and promote larger ‘public interest’ which can only be defined through democratic participation and debate, honest journalism cannot be anything but an appreciation of and practice of Lokneeti.

It follows that one cannot be an honest journalist without being a practitioner of Lokneeti.

Of course, one doesn’t have to be a journalist to practise Lokneeti. One just has to be a citizen and a member of the society, which each one of us is. So Lokneeti is inescapable for each one of us.

I believe that India’s corporate media are a great example of the ‘propaganda model’ of the US media proposed by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media,’ their seminal work published in 1988.

If you concede that, you will also concede that all journalists in corporate media organisations are, willy nilly, consciously or unconsciously, serving the interests of the elite that rules India.

‘Propaganda model’ is not based on any conspiracy theory. It does not say that there is an elite conspiracy behind the propaganda role of the media. It just says that elite dominance of all important institutions puts in place something akin to ‘filters’ that ensure that information and discussion is winnowed, processed and dressed up to suit the elite interest and status quo.

In other words, news are reported, views are expressed, and debates are conducted within a framework defined and continuously reinforced by the elite which consists of media owners, big business owners, including advertisers, wielders of State power, etc.

(The readers not familiar with Herman and Chomsky’s work may like to read about ‘propaganda model’ on Wikipedia. They may also like to watch an old video clip of Prof. Chomsky explaining the propaganda model on the link:

Propaganda model will give the readers some plausible explanation of the so called “objectivity” and “neutrality” of the mainstream media, as also why, for instance, most TV channels blacked out the police atrocities in Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) in March 2011.

Working journalists who have a sense of the pro-elite, anti-democratic, propagandising role of the so called mainstream media need to exert themselves.

They first need to wise up to the virtual censorship clamped by the elite on flow of information on and discussion of public-interest issues and then appreciate and strengthen the democratic movements in the larger society, i.e. any effort by the common citizens to organize themselves and participate in decision making.

Such journalists should see themselves as ordinary citizens, not privileged members of the so called ‘fourth estate’ who look down upon the silly affairs of citizenry from their supposedly intellectual ivory towers.

Such journalists can do the following two things.

1. Based on their level of understanding and commitment, throw their weight behind popular, democratic movements such as those against corruption, land grab, pro-elite development agenda, corporate crimes, etc, and democratic movements for labour rights, freedom of association, freedom of information, etc.

2. Come together to discuss things and try to reclaim their journalistic freedoms which have been illegally captured by the owners of media organisations with the help of their handsomely-paid agents who usually go by the designations of ‘editors’, ‘managing editors’, ‘executive editors’, ‘editorial directors,’ etc.



well said and so true,

Pankaj Pushkar,
Bharat Jan Andolan

kapil said...

Thanks, Pankaj ji.

busyb66 said...

the moment you accept a salary you are a slave.

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