In the Line of Fire…

In the Line of Fire…
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World Press Freedom Day was celebrated yesterday amidst a general backdrop of gloom and doom, especially in terms of counter currents of populism, and charges of elitism against established institutions, almost across the world. It may be pertinent to posit that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to protect freedom of speech and to remind Governments of their duties toward the same. But, revert to the point made earlier, the contextual backdrop to the wider and broader media ecology is that of declaiming, discrediting and decrying media, especially, established mainstream media. In this respect, Donald Trump of the United States “pioneered” discrediting all forms of mainstream media, particular the ones who challenge and criticize him. The name of the game for these populists has been to trot an alternative version of “truth” and narrative. Any mainstream media response, essentially in the nature of a tepid rear guard action so far, has been sought to be the “untruth”. This has been facilitated by the widespread and deep penetration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) and their corollary, social media. The ubiquity and ease of access to social media has meant that mainstream media can be easily put on the defensive and even individuals who challenge official narratives can be harassed by trolls and /or other forms of bullying. In parts of the world other than the United States, the official technique has been to either co opt, cajole or coerce opponents in the media to silence them, either by employing binary labels (such as anti national) or other such terms that put journalists on the defensive. In the process, truth becomes the casualty and artificial narratives, through various platforms, assume prominence. The question is: can anything be done to make honest, truthful and ethical journalism be made prominent again? The answer is yes. But, this condition cannot and will not be arrived at or helped by Governments, for there is a natural tension between Governments and the media. The onus for bold, beautiful, honest and ethical reportage, journalism and opinion making lies on mainstream media itself. This form of journalism has to understand the new media ecology and framework that takes into account all variables and constants and then formulate a response that is effective, efficient, ethical and brutally honest. It is about time then that mainstream media wakes up, smells the coffee, so to speak and be more salient in the lives of people, the sooner, the better.

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