In his opening remarks at a panel discussion of a virtual event, ‘The State of Indian Media’ organized by the Dravidian Professional Forum on 24 March 2022, the Tamil Nadu finance minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan said, “At the national level, the media is dominated by the ruling party and we have seen the degradation all the way from alleged speaking truth to power, to keeping quiet, to becoming acquiescent tools, to becoming blatant tools of misinformation and propagation of false news.”
Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire said that the current business model of the media industry lends itself to state capture of the media in one way or the other. A vibrant and independent media requires a change in governance that ensures the media’s financial independence.
“If a government or a polity is committed to empowering its citizens then it should also be in favor of supporting a vibrant and free media,” he added. “Of course, a prerequisite for a vibrant media is that media should have adequate financial resources to be able to discharge its solemn obligation of providing information to citizens, readers, and viewers allowing them to form informed opinions.” He noted that the growing tendency of criminalizing journalists’ work and the government’s intent to control media through new rules as two major dangers to the Indian media.
‘No excuses for not standing up and doing your job’
N Ram, director of The Hindu Publishing Group, said that the Indian media industry, especially newspapers were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, due to a sharp decline in circulation and advertising, which took a heavy toll on the finances of media groups. Nevertheless, he added, “The whole industry has shrunk a little bit but it has become more resilient. But given the current recovery, there are no excuses left for not standing up and doing your job.”
Highlighting the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) data, Ram said a total of 52 journalists have been murdered in India since 1992 in connection with their work or to prevent news coverage or commentary. “What is equally horrifying is the impunity that is attached to it. None of these cases has reached its final conclusion.”
(Based on inputs from Business Line.)