In the Crosshairs

In the Crosshairs
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Journalism, even in the best of times, so to speak, is fraught with tension and even danger(s). The essence of this vocation is to, both, speak truth to power and hold a mirror to society. In both these senses, critique and criticism are the natural embodiment and corollaries of journalism. Both these indelible aspects of journalism can raise the hackles of powers that be and even, at times, constituent members of society. In certain permutations and combinations, what is at stake is discourse and narrative; sometimes, discourse is sought to be squelched; at other times, it is sought to be slanted. In either condition or situation, it is journalism that is in the crosshairs. But, a free press , robust and vigorous journalism is the sine qua non of a healthy society and polity. It not only keeps power in check or prevents abuse of power but , journalism by holding a mirror to society and highlighting issues of social, moral, ethical and general concern is in the nature of a necessary course correction or even a corrective for society. But, the world that we inhabit contemporarily, appears to have inverted and gone topsy turvy. In this world, journalism is being seriously questioned and impugned. Consider the case of the United States where Donald Trump has gone on a veritable crusade against the media. He bandies words and phrases like “fake media” and “fake news” to discredit the media, especially those who criticize him and his policies. This trend is not limited to the United States; elsewhere too, journalism and journalists are sought to be questioned, impugned, harassed or even worse. All this is insalubrious and unhealthy. For if journalism and journalists are silenced by whatever news, then power has a free rein, so to speak. It is for no reason that the crafters of polities and constitutions accorded and gave serious and significant weightage to the free press , freedom of expression or the fourth estate. These were viewed as a necessary corrective to power and its abuse thereof and to inject a measure of sobriety and proportion in a given polity. If , however, free expression ( of a responsible and sober variety) is sought to be checked, then it can only lead to distorted polities and the net sufferers will be people. It then is incumbent upon power to take an expansive view of free expression, journalism and other assorted forms of media and view their role in more sanguine terms.