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Mainstream, VOL LX No 36 New Delhi, August 27, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, August 27, 2022

Friday 26 August 2022


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, August 27, 2022

India stands at 142nd position out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2021. Multiple parameters are used to make credible comparative assessments on questions of media independence, legislation, freedom of the press, freedom to write and report for journalists, etc. Media barons are doing brisk business, but media freedoms are not in great health in India. The use of repressive state apparatus and also the use of powerful advertising revenue as a carrot and stick to curb media freedoms is not new in India, but what is new is growing brazenness & its normalisation on the one hand and a new style of monopolist media ownership structure in the making on the other. Media editors are struggling to keep independent in face of the growing clout of the owners who own tens of TV channels and other media. A large majority of TV networks and newspapers are now owned by two powerful big business conglomerates, The Ambanis and the Adanis. Over the past seven years, we have witnessed a media polarised into the pro-govt/ big business pole on the one side and a slightly more independent pole on the other side. It is astonishing to see how across a slew of TV networks pro Modi govt views are replicated and echoed. Social movements critical of the govt get slandered and mocked on the pro-govt pole with its biased and one-sided coverage. There are still a handful of independent national newspapers, new media websites, and rare TV networks that are withstanding the pressures and there are controlled by the older media groups. On 24 August 2022 news broke about a giant business conglomerate buying a chunk in the ownership of NDTV [1]. The founders of independent-minded NDTV issued a statement that they were not informed or consulted about the acquisition of 29.19% stake [2] and now the same firm has made an open offer for acquiring another 26 %. NDTV is among the few remaining TV networks that have retained autonomy. Many have expressed fears that this hostile takeover attempt will further skew the mediascape at the level of ownership and leave little room for independent players. Moving beyond the question of ownership, Journalists critical of the government continue to be intimidated on social media by officials and supporters of the ruling BJP and some get arrested and harassed and their safety is a big concern [3]. Over the past year or so there have been accusations of the use of military-grade Pegasus spyware for surveillance on journalists and political opponents. Many top journalists filed a petition to India‚Äôs top court to investigate this matter. The Govt refused to respond to the court. But the court did not take the bull by the horns and file contempt of court notices on government officers for refusal to cooperate. Instead, a Supreme Court-appointed committee has tried to investigate but the government has more or less refused to cooperate with it. [4] In the middle of this week, an Indian American Journalist was deported back to New York from the New Delhi Airport, no reasons were given for the deportation. [5] We had earlier seen two Kashmiri journalists being denied permission to travel abroad. It is time for the trade unions of journalists to organise in more imaginative ways and build social alliances given the precarious weather for media freedoms.

August 27, 2022 - HK

[229% Of NDTV Acquired Without Discussion, Consent Or Notice

[3Soutik Biswas, Why journalists in India are under attack

[5US journalist deported from Delhi airport, family claims he was on personal visit

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