Prasar Bharati, recently called out BBC for its biased coverage of Delhi rampage. It also tweeted a new hashtag #NewsJihad which is now trending on twitter. Here’s a look at it
Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati declined an invitation to BBC India’s maiden sports award night – BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year. The awards will recognise the paradigm shift in the nation’s sporting landscape – an inclusive step on the public service broadcaster’s behalf.
Vempati in an email respectfully denied the invitation on the grounds of biased coverage of recent violence in Delhi by the British broadcaster. Prasar Bharati holds AIR and Doordarshan — so, the snub is an exceptional move on the part of an Indian public service broadcaster — to complain about the bias to a British counterpart.
Interestingly, a couple of days ago, the Indian national broadcaster’s official twitter account called out Al Jazeera English and its sub twitter handle Al Jazeera plus, requestion probe for their alleged role in enticing Delhi violence with a strange hashtag #NewsJihad.
This #NewsJihad hashtag, in light of the recent interaction between to state-owned public broadcasters Prasar Bharati and BBC, opens up a new paradigm for considering how global media looks at India.
The Role of Media: Left, Right, Polarised
In the book The Elements of Journalism writer Bill Coach and Tom Rosenstiel says, ‘journalism is not defined by technology, nor by the journalist or their techniques. Rather it’s defined by something more basic: the ‘function’ news plays in the lives of people.’
Indian Media is regularly scrutinized for the nature of its coverage. The initiation of news in the digital world and into social media has shown its two faces – prolifically spreading awareness as well as fake news.
For India — as a country — the transition from 2019 to 2020 has been very difficult. Kashmir lockdown, anti-CAA protests, shades of communal violence around the country, and now coronavirus — the land and its people have suffered bloody gravely.
Media closer to home has recorded accounts of fellow journalists who were harassed while reporting the violence in Delhi. However, there are also cases like of the largest distributor of news in South Asia ANI that somehow overlooked reporting anti-CAA protest around the world. And frankly many such cases. But the international media hasn’t been any kinder either.
Media’s foremost responsibility is to ‘report responsibly and let the reader decide.’ However, the curse of ‘digital age’ is such that anything less than a unique headline isn’t acceptable. Here is an example;
The Guardian, 16 December, 2019: India citizenship law: shock at crackdown may unite Modi opponents
The Guardian, January 3, 2020: We are not safe’: India’s Muslims tell of the wave of police brutality
The New York times (27 February 2020): As Protests Rage on Citizenship Bill, Is India Becoming a Hindu Nation?
Though the Media asks the pertinent questions, but the lack of sensitivity and #OTT sensationalization is quite evident.
Global perspective—India’s State of freedom
On Thursday, A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy, a report by oldest American democracy-advocacy organisation, Freedom House recorded a ‘global struggle for democracies around the world.’ In the report’s Human Freedom Index, India noticed a steep fall this year scoring 71 out of 100 excluding Kashmir which scored a 28 out of 100, closer to Pakistan which scored 38 out of 100.
Almost twice as many countries saw the decline this year but India’s fall is the steepest considering 95 countries and 15 territories studied by the non-government-organisation founded by Elenor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. Using 25 indicators such as freedom of expression and belief, rule of law, individual human rights, electoral process, pluralism among others the report this year finds ‘freedom waning from democracies’ all over the world.
Prasar Bharati’s letter and tweet with #NewsJihad is showing signs of taking a clear stand as to how India is reported globally from a singular perspective. It’s media’s public service mandate to speak up in national interest.
Yes, someday I’d like to read an Indian/global media house reporting about ‘How an average, millennial, privileged Hindu feels about the sate of this country?’ Just for the sake of editorial righteousness and following the journalistic thumb rule of being ‘Devil’s advocate’.
It might be too early to say what face #NewsJihad will take. It can be just another follow up of ‘calling out the industry’ trend or maybe something more meaningful.
Twitter trends will tell!