Honest Media

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Not as opposed to a free media, but in addition to being a free media, what is also extremely important is giving substance to the idea of an honest media. Of course we are aware we skate on very thin ice, by necessity, when we even place a foot in the realm of the abstract. “Honesty” for instance is heavily nuanced, as the stage explorations of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen touchingly and convincingly bring out. To take a very obvious example, can a white lie be a show of lack of honesty. So very often, we find people confusing a white lie to mean a blatant and deliberate lie. It is indeed blatant, so is it deliberate as well, but the question is, is it really a lie in the sense that we know a lie to be? Consider this perfect example of a white lie. Suppose a doctor were to tell her terminally ill patient that there is nothing seriously wrong with him and he can recover, can the doctor be called a liar? By definition yes, for she did not tell the truth, but the reason that she shielded her patient from the cruelty of the truth is obviously for the cause of a deeper truth – the wellbeing of the patient even in his last hours. The untruth of the white lie may in this sense be actually noble, and in a spiritual way, show a fidelity not to hard facts but to a realm beyond. So very often, honesty and dishonesty are not so obvious, but are deeply buried below multiple nuances of a complex subject. Sincere introspections and indeed discourses must have to be about digging out these nuances and then reassessing our situations with them as the backdrop. It is also against this backdrop that our sense of right and wrong, or call it conscience if you will, must be placed.
But the problem is, when your house is on fire, there is hardly any likelihood that you will have time to think of anything else but the fire. And so, the chief concern of the Manipur media today is media freedom from external pressures. There is hardly the leisure as yet to think beyond this and to begin touching the nuances of abstract but essential subjects as honesty etc. Much like what Prof. Charles Douglas Lummis, in his lectures in Imphal last year, and some of his writings and lectures available on the internet, implied of the question of rule of law. Things are so chaotically bad in Manipur today that just the return of the rule of law can do it wonders as a first step. But this first step can hardly be the last, for the rule of law too can become extremely oppressive. As for instance, to take an example which nobody in Manipur would miss, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, is an instrument of the rule of law. Hence, in any consideration of rightness and wrongness, there is the need ultimately to realize there is something beyond even the rule of law. The rule of law ultimately has to be built on the foundation of certain innate and universal qualities of the individual, such as “the innate resistance in a man to kill another man”, in Prof. Lummis’ own words. “Radical citizenship” and “radical democracy” would then be for the civil society to provide the foil to ensure the rule of law does not stray from these universal qualities.
The Manipur media too must then first ensure that its basic editorial freedoms are guaranteed. It must continue to resist and challenge all oppressive pressures to control its editorial discretions, be it from the underground establishment or from the government authorities. It must also be brave enough to acknowledge that while there is a tendency over the years for the government to relax its controls, sometimes to the extent of promoting anarchy, it is the diktats from underground organizations and their fronts, which have been the source of most media fetters. This too, we must add, is easing up. Once these overt threats are overcome, it must begin the soul search for the nuances of the qualities that concern us most, and which we have always taken so much for granted. These would include, as we have briefly touched upon earlier, honesty, but also freedom for instance. For beyond freedom from physical threats to personal wellbeing, this concept too is extremely nuanced. As a footnote it must be said, in digging out these nuances, there can be no medium better than the arts, as men like Ibsen have demonstrated. Who says the arts have ceased to be relevant to modern life no more than their ornamental value?

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