The State of the Fourth State in the State

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Leader Writer: Svoboda Kangleicha

The much maligned fourth estate in spite of being owned by big businesses has enough elbow room to come up with journalistic coups once in a while. The credibility of the Indian media which hit the nadir by its failure to detect anything amiss in the logbooks of an IT company despite having eight business newspapers at its disposal was restored when an English daily with a limited circulation unearthed a massive scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum involving business bigwigs, powerful ministers and influential media professionals. However, that hard earned credibility has now taken a beating as those selfsame tainted journalists have brazened it out all and are back in business, some more prominent than ever. The jury is still out on whether a witch-hunt among its own ranks would have done wonders for the credibility of the Indian media.

Closer home, the publication of a news story more than a fortnight ago by a vernacular newspaper of some women making Loktak Development Authority (LDA) officials fight shy of continuing with their forced evictions by running out of their huts without any clothes on and the fierce rebuttal by a civil body of the incident ever taking place put the state of the fourth state in the state at the crosshairs of general scrutiny. The incident has made it amply clear that reportage, at least in some sections of the vernacular media, remains shoddy, and reveals poor or little coordination between reporters and the news desk. Some probing questions from the news desk would have save the newspaper from carrying the story without being corroborated by evidence. Having said that the subsequent blackout of that news story by almost all the newspapers without any follow up stories on what exactly transpired is puzzling.

Sweeping the blooper committed by one of our own under the carpet is good for keeping the fraternal feeling intact but bad journalism. Journalists are responsible to truth, barring some exceptions, and nothing else. This is not to suggest that we should launch a witch-hunt against the newspaper for its poor reporting but we as journalists owe to the people to tell the real story. Elsewhere, a stringer of a national newspaper had made derogatory statements about the quality of the scribes in the state. In these circumstances, the journalists’ body of the state must realise that we can’t blame others before we put our house in order.

What the journalists’ body asked for from other newspapers was a form of censorship: self-censorship. George Orwell has written about the damages of self-censorship in any democratic society. The first priority of journalists is to unearth the truth and if they start exercising self censorship than truth is going to be the first casualty.

We need to emulate and achieve the journalistic heights set by people like Rodolfo Walsh who never flinched while performing his duty as a journalist. Many credited the military genius of Fidel Castro for defending Cuba during the CIA backed invasion by some mercenaries in the Bay of Pigs invasion but it was this journalist who decrypted the telex about plans to invade Cuba that prepared the former for withstanding the attack.

We need to imbibe the spirit of that intelligent and intrepid scribe like him.

 

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