In The News



by Vinta Nanda March 21 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 48 secs

Maintaining a clear separation between religion and politics, and sustaining a media free of pressure, is essential for pluralism, democracy, and social harmony, writes Vinta Nanda

While religion can provide moral guidance for individuals, its entanglement with politics poses significant risks to the stability, inclusivity, and progress of contemporary societies. Media serves as a critical pillar of democratic societies, tasked with the vital role of informing the public, holding those in power accountable, and fostering transparency.

In the lead-up to elections in India, the media's role in shaping public discourse and informing citizens is paramount. Recent indications by the mainstream media, largely predicated on polling data, have already projected an imminent victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming elections. While such predictions might align with certain polling trends, it is crucial to recognize that the media's duty transcends mere speculation and should encompass a commitment to balanced reporting.

Recent events, notably the Sandeshkhali episode, have dominated our television screens for days on end. While it is crucial to shed light on such incidents, the disproportionate coverage raises questions about the impartiality of our media. The alleged harasser's affiliation with the Trinamool Congress has spurred continuous scrutiny, rightfully so, yet it's disheartening to note the silence surrounding equally pressing matters.

One issue that demands urgent attention is the electoral bonds scandal, arguably one of the most significant corruption episodes in India's recent history. Despite its gravity, there seems to be a conspicuous absence of accountability, particularly when it comes to questioning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The lack of scrutiny and public discourse on this matter is deeply concerning and indicative of a systemic failure to address corruption impartially.

The dismissive attitude of certain news anchors towards those who dare to raise their voices against such injustices is troubling. The prevalence of whataboutery, perpetuated by them during television programs, only serves to obfuscate meaningful dialogue and evade accountability. This trend of deflecting legitimate concerns with irrelevant comparisons is not only detrimental to the pursuit of truth but also undermines the very essence of journalistic integrity.  

As responsible citizens, it is our duty to hold our elected representatives and institutions accountable, irrespective of their political affiliations. Similarly, it is imperative for the media to fulfil its role as the fourth estate by providing unbiased coverage and informed debate on issues of national importance.

In a democracy, the media serves as a conduit for diverse voices and perspectives, ensuring that citizens are well-informed to make informed choices at the ballot box. However, when the media prematurely dismisses opposition narratives and perspectives, it deprives the electorate of crucial insights into alternative governance visions and policies.

Politics driven by religious sentiment and belief, and mainstream media under its pressure, stifles progress, enables corruption, interferes with human rights, has negative economic impact and diminishes international relations. It leads to erosion of equal rights and opportunities, and exacerbates social divisions, leads to polarization, conflict, and violence and a compromised media inadvertently becomes a destructive tool.

Religious doctrines conflict with universal human rights principles, particularly regarding issues such as gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and freedom of expression. A media under pressure therefore becomes responsible for the imposition of regressive policies that violate fundamental rights.

Selective reporting is a common tactic. By cherry-picking stories or framing them in a particular light, media outlets influence public perception while maintaining the appearance of impartiality. This selective coverage serves to distract from important issues, downplay government wrongdoing, or amplify divisive narratives that serve the interests of those in power. Moreover, governments employ propaganda techniques to demonize political opponents, glorify government policies and actions. By controlling the narrative, governments seek to shape public opinion in their favour and undermine the media's role as an objective watchdog.

Ultimately, when the media bows to government pressure, as it is visibly doing now, it betrays the trust of its consumers and undermines its own credibility. Citizens are deprived of the essential information necessary to make informed decisions, participate meaningfully in democratic processes, and hold their leaders accountable for their actions. Media organizations have to prioritize journalistic ethics, maintain editorial independence, and resist external pressures that compromise their integrity in this election season or else history will not be kind to them.

A truly democratic media is one that prioritizes the public interest over partisan interests, champions pluralism and diversity of thought, and empowers citizens to actively participate in the democratic process with discernment. Anything short of this risks failing the very consumers it purports to serve and undermining the foundations of democracy itself.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.