Opinion | In India, 75 years after independence, democracy dies in prime time

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Then the journalist Muhammad Zubair A 4-year-old was arrested for tweeting Borrowing a pun from an old movie, Arnab Goswami, the prime-time anchor of Republic TV, one of India’s leading news networks, was outraged by accusations of hurting religious sentiments — but not at the attack on freedom of expression. Arrest Representation. He was angry with Zubair.

On another network, Times Now (owned by India’s richest newspaper conglomerate), a massive gold band announced the alleged double standard of “#Zuber Lobby heresy”. It was the same channel that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson (since suspended) Nupur Sharma did. Derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, triggering an international diplomatic debate with the Arab world. Zubair was the first to highlight the remarks and the channel was gunning for him.

Certainly, in any strong democracy, journalists – or politicians – should not face jail time for comments, no matter how light or offensive. But several prominent Indian TV journalists have exhibited an ugly doublespeak when it comes to defending someone’s freedom. If anyone is a hypocrite, it’s them.

Instead of standing up against political attacks on freedom of expression, news channels in India have become factories of hate. As India celebrates its 75th birthday, the country’s TV networks are presiding over the death of journalism.

His carefully crafted prime time narrative is in tune with right-wing Hindutva politics; In fact, their roughness often goes several steps further.

His architectural fanaticism did not leave the country during the pandemic. When Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox Muslim sect, held a mass meeting in early 2020, a TV channel used the hashtag #CoronaJihad to describe the event. Another chose a visual representation of a Muslim skull cap to convey a dashboard of daily affairs.

In July, several broadcast outlets used a similar headline — Flood Jihad – to cover up a conspiracy that started on social media claiming that Muslims attacked fortifications in the eastern state of Assam and caused the floods. It is the duty of journalism to investigate these claims and why the police should be held accountable Four ruthless Muslim men were falsely accused. Instead, the TV station validated the injustice and increased its prejudice.

News anchors have become actors huffing and puffing in outrage. Even guests invited to discuss today’s pressing issues are carefully cast into the drama — the more extreme, the better.

Content is built on manufactured disagreements, with network broadcasts producing a steady stream of noisy confrontations and yelling. The screen looks like a hydra-headed monster, divided into a gazillion postage stamp windows. Speakers are chosen for extreme irrationality. The show features Jahal Hindus, often draped in saffron robes, with particularly Muslim voices who are caricatures — made for TV clerics with long beards and small minds chosen to attract society’s attention and reinforce its worst stereotypes.

By pitting Hindus against Muslims in an artificial gladiatorial contest, TV news avoids real stories like rising unemployment and the cost of living, floods and deteriorating public health. Kota Neelima, whose research focuses on how bulletins prioritize topics, found that over a two-year period, religious issues took over. Mass transmissionsAnd prepared for a few days 76 percent of all content.

Private news broadcasting in India began in the 90s, when two production houses were allowed to present 30-minute bulletins each on government-run television stations. I worked with one and I remember how every news script had to be checked by the first officer before it went on air. As a first-generation TV journalist, I was struck by the magic of the medium and the immediacy of its energy. Over the years, like many colleagues, I have migrated to the digital space in search of a new look, freshness and greater freedom.

A broken revenue model has also hit broadcast journalism in India. Along with the huge running costs, the budget for sending journalists into the field has been cut dramatically. Conversely, talk is cheap. But pettiness and difficulty are the least serious crimes of the present day.

It is ironic that when Zubair got out on bail, the An example is the one used to bail Goswami, the anchor who defended Zubair’s arrest. Goswami was jailed in 2020 by BJP opponents in a suicide case. His arrest was clearly unfair and wrong, but he continues to use his platform Sue other journalists. Those who disagree with him are slandered, attacked and threatened on his shows.

When the Post added a new slogan under its online masthead in 2017 — “Democracy dies in darkness” — some called it “inauspicious“and”With a heavy hand.”

But in India democracy is under constant attack under the lights of TV studios at 9pm every night.

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