Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba
“Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalist from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility” ,the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the leading voices in the United States mentions in its preamble on the subject of journalism standards and ethics.
The state media has experienced its fair share of troubles and confronted powerful elements in its objective to remain unbiased and maintain freedom of the press. The principles of journalistic codes or ‘canons of journalism’ are designed as to guide one through numerous difficulties which might arise due to conflict of interest, to assist journalist in dealing with ethical dilemmas. The codes and canons provide journalists a framework for self monitoring and self criticism. There may be different codes in different places but most share common elements including principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.
In spite of the norms laid down, it will be an honest opinion that not all in the journalistic fraternity follow the principles and some succumb to temptation. There may be our fair share of black sheep’s as evidently as there are numerous in the other sections of society. Manipur, a state reeling under the draconian AFSPA has seen its fair share of wanton killings and the media has clearly not run out of crime reports.The reportage of the July 23 Khwairamband Bazar incident in which Rabina and Sanjit were killed and the latter being shown in photographic witness by the Tehelka magazine as killed in a fake encounter clearly indicates the ‘bravado’ of the state media. Though, as the saying goes that one must dance to the tune of the drums, subsequently the state media might be doing the same. The fear of reprisals by either state or non state cannot merely be ruled out and it is indeed a fine thin red line that is drawn in front of the scribes. It may be safe to assume ours may be the only state in which editors and senior journalists have to meet consistently to chalk out the collective decision from a seemingly impossible ‘devil and the deep blue sea’ situations.
In spite of the perils so taken in the stride by the state media, the amount of risk and work involved in working under such hazardous conditions is certainly not reflected in the wages, especially those of the field reporters. As compared with other state counterparts, there is much left wanting in the lifestyle of one working in a local media house and certainly deserves due conference of a BPL card. It would not be asking too much of the well established media houses to give adequate wages to its ‘skilled’ workers.
Given the scenario where one is not able to maintain a family with the loose change handed by the nouveau riche proprietors, therein lies the predicament where one is faced to compromise on ethics and accept ‘gifts’ or worse, ask for one. A gift in its true sense may be the transfer of something without the expectation of payment. Although, gift giving may also involve a sense of reciprocity and mutual exchange of goods or money may lead to social cohesion. But,if a journalist becomes a gift taker, then the stance of maintain neutrality becomes highly debatable.
There are those who belonged to the media and at present living in ivory towers enjoying equal power and status.There may be also some at present with one hand in the media and the other in contract works ,which begs the question if what they are doing is justified? Their hobnobbing with politicians and officials by being a journalist have given them opportunities but is it with without compromising their ethics? Some questions sometimes best remain unanswered, but the soul needs to ask!It is felt that to foster self criticism is not waywardness but rather a means towards self development.
The need is felt for the apex body of the scribes, the AMWJU to frame an ombudsman to prevent misusing of the occupation privileges and further work to raise the living standard of the scribes.To try and fail is acceptable but the effort if wholehearted will be worthwhile as one feels that it would not be as difficult as landing a man on the moon, which was done by Yuri Gagarin way back in 1969. Otherwise, those of the majority who have held on to their principles and worked with love of the profession may be viewed in the wrong perspective by equally judging ‘others’. If we, the so called fourth pillar exposing the reality of society cannot address our own misgivings while highlighting those of others. Then, there be no bigger hypocrites than we. The motto is ‘Achumbana Yaifarae’ (Truth Prevails).