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Media: How Watchdog is becoming a Pet dog of Money and TRP

There are mainly four pillars of democracy, which are Judiciary, legislative, executive and media. When it comes to the media, it is known as the fourth pillar of democracy. Media plays a vital and vibrant role in any nation and is considered to be the most powerful entity on earth, which ensures transparency. Media acts as the guardian of public interest by acting as a bridge between people as well as the State. All the information with respect to the state is ultimately delivered to people through media.

The objective of media is to inform the public about all the activities happening around the world i.e., the matters of national importance as well as international importance. They serve the people with ideas and information of all the members of public interest in fair, accurate impartial and decent manner and language.

But, as we all know there are always two sides of the coins i.e., media can either lift the nation to heights or can cause a state of disorganization. Media holds a very important position, as said by Edward Bulwer – Lytton, the English writer, who also served as Whig Member of Parliament that:
Beneath the rule of men entirely great. The pen is mightier than the sword.

What we see nowadays on news channels is that it is not following the real news but is rather focusing on things which can generate TRP irrespective of journalistic ethics. The media which is known as the watchdog has now turned into a dog waiting for the bone. The biggest example of this nowadays is that media's prime and only focus is on the case of Sushant Singh Rajput. The other issues like pandemic, health care, Assam floods, India-China tensions, border fights etc are sidelined and neglected.

Many National news channels have been devoting most of their time covering the controversies surrounding the unfortunate death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the upcoming actor. This is done in two formats:
  1. They attempt to provide factual coverage of the case through accounts by their reporters at the latest developments in the case they are gleaned from their sources.
  2. They invite guests billed as experts on this and other similar cases and analyze these developments.
It is for sure that many of these analyses is based on incomplete information and are just merely shooting in the dark.

In Sushant Singh Rajput's case, we can see that media has itself become the investigating officer and the Judge, which violates the due process of law. All these issues raise various concerns, which are as follows:
  1. Due process of law and the role of Media:

    Due process is a course of legal proceedings according to rules and principles that have been established for the protection of private rights. It is very well established in the 39th article of Magna Carta that No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled in or any way destroyed… except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

    As per the due process of law, a person accused of any crime shall only be punished after due investigation has been done, but, what we see in media is itself becoming the investigating officer as well as the judge. For instance, in the case of Sushant Singh Rajput's case, we have seen that the news channel Aaj Tak showing and accusing Rhea Chakraborty for doing ‘Black Magic' on Sushant. Not only that, but the media is also calling the eminent speakers to debate on topics like Rhea a ‘gold digger' or ‘scapegoat'. Channels compete with each other to show largely unverified details of the case. A great detail of information collected by them is usually from whatsapp messages, details of telephone records, and video recordings. And even in that the whatsapp messages contradict what is being claimed in other messages. Such evidences have very little corroboration of authenticity.

    The media is also showing and saying that they are getting data from the CBI (Crime Bureau of Investigation) and ED (Enforcement Director). An investigation must take place on this issue as to how are they getting such delicate information from India's premier investigative agencies. The authorities need to verify whether such claims are true. And if they are proved to be false, legal action must be taken against the offending channels. However, if the claims are true, it is a matter of serious concern because it could bring doubts on the reputation of India's premier investigative agencies as it violates the rules of their service.
     
  2. Privacy and Reputation:

    In today's times, we regularly see media infringing the right to privacy of people, which cannot be considered to be ethical. In this case of Sushant Singh Rajput, we have seen media on the death of the upcoming actor covering the father of Sushant in his house asking him that:
    How is he feeling that his son has died?
    Another recent incident which came into light is Republic TV zooming into Rhea Chakraborty's living room from outside the building. These incidents clearly show that the media is infringing right to privacy of the accused and the victim. They are going to every extent possible by considering it as their freedom of expression and independence.

    Such acts of media are clearly damaging the reputation of accused, Rhea Chakraborty. If by any case, in future, if it is established that Rhea was not the culprit, the media would apologize, but what about the reputation and the trauma the accused go through this time?
     
  3. Real issues sidelined:

    The major offence that these news channels are committing is that they are only showing the unfortunate death of Sushant Singh Rajput as a matter of national importance and the other matters which hold National as well as International importance are sidelined which diminishes the main objective of the media. Some of the matters which are not given proper importance and are sidelined are pandemic where the cases are rising exponentially and also other issues like public health system, Indo-China tensions, plight of migrant laborers who are suffering in this pandemic time, serious military conflicts, border movements etc.
The indiatvnews is showing the jail manual in which it is shown that Rhea Chakraborty woke up at nearly 6 am on Friday and was served poha and tea in breakfast. All this shows that the media which is known as the watchdog has now become the pet dog of political and rich parties whose main focus is on TRP and money. The lust of money has now made the media lose its real objective of being transparent, accurate, decent and impartial in showing news.

There are many examples of these, some of which are as follows:

  1. We all know about the famous controversy of Haryana's CM Manohar lal Khattar in 2017, where one of the journalist had to resign from the Zee News Channel just because he asked the CM about the effects of demonetization and the CM was not very well aware of it.
     
  2. In 2018, the case of scamster, Nirav Modi, who fled with 11,400 Crore Rupees was sidelined.
     
  3. Media covers much when the actors like Rishi Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Irrfan Khan dies but the death of the persons who protect our Nation are sidelined even though a high profile Colonel and a police officer along with four Army soldiers died in Kashmir on May 3, 2020.
     
  4. The frontline warriors of Covid-19 like Dr. Muffazal Lakdawada and Dr. Gautam Bhansal and their staff who treated corona virus affected people without charge and have not even gone home back for five months are sidelined and neglected by the news channels.
     
  5. Media for the sake of TRP will cover news when a Muslim dies in any riots but the news channels will sideline the news when two Sadhus and their driver were lynched in the Palghar district of Maharashtra on 16th April, 2020.

Conclusion:
In any democracy, the pillars of it holds an eminent position which should work being transparent, accurate and impartial. Media should not themselves become the investigating officers or a Judge as Media trial has a power to create a perception of prejudice against the accused. Media must not announce judgments and should rather leave it for the court to decide. Media must remember their objectives and should show news of National and International importance impartially and should not run on the fingers of the Government and should not become the pet dogs that run behind TRP and money.

Media nowadays is losing its credibility because of the values being compromised, truth being buried, morality being destroyed, values being choked. To protect this fourth pillar of democracy will not be an easy task but it can be restored. As great Martin Luther King Jr. said:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at the time of challenge and controversy.

There's still time that media can join to its primary job i.e., to be the voice of the voiceless, conscience of the conscienceless society, and a lamp to lit the dim, dull and dingy spirit.

Media rather sidelining the important news must sideline the biased factors like racial, religious, and political bias within the media, so that its main objectives are restored and also the ethical standards of journalism improve, which can help in uplifting the Nation. And as Media has the enormous power of influencing the society at large and due to this influencing power they play a huge role in making and unmaking of the government, certain code of conduct should be established and news should have checks and balances which must be followed strictly.

The purpose of writing this Article is not that Media should not focus on the news related to the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, but to also give equal importance to other subjects as mentioned in the Article.

End-Notes:
  1. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/an-unedifying-spectacle/article32481037.ece

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