The English language media is slowly waking up to the damage wreaked on the profession of journalism by newspapers that call themselves ?national?. Consider this article in The Tribune (September 12), by Mohanmeet Khosla who is a Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Punjab University, Chandigarh. Writes Mr Khosla: ?Journalism is up for grabs to the highest bidder. News is becoming a filler for advertisements. Editorial space is being bought. Content is being dictated by partisan motives. The soul has gone out of journalism. The consumer is being sold a shell. The tragedy is that he is taking it.? It takes some courage to speak the truth about journalism these days but one has to thank God for lecturers like Mr Khosla and for a paper like The Tribune. To quote Mr Khosla further: ?Let us introspect on how the media sees us. The reader doesn´t really exist… Instead we have the consumer…?
There is more of such stuff in the article. The point is that at least a few newspapers are getting to be aware of the poor state of journalism in the country and wish to reverse the trend. Concludes Mr Khosla: ?The current trend of ?dumbing down? of the media has dangerous ramifications for our collective evolution. We are evolving into pygmies.? We are, indeed. And it is time for the reader to tell some of our national dailies where they get off.
Then there is the article in Sahara Times (September 18) under the heading: ?Sexual Content in the Media has raised Questions about the Effect it is having on Young Minds?. The author of the article, Gajanan Khergamker quotes sociologists and women activists as laying the blame for the rise in sexual crimes among the young to ?the sway of the mass media that continues to assume awesome proportions?. It would seem that the Mumbai High Court has recently ruled in favour of Mumbai-based St. Xavier´s College professor Pratibha Nathani´s Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in which she had asked for nudity in television programmes, newspapers and posters to be banned. Prof. Nathani has been quoted as saying: ?Despite laws to curb sex and violence in television, they are not being implemented?. Who is responsible for enforcing the law? They need to be identified and put to work.
Recent developments in our society are alarming. According to a front-paged story in Hindustan Times (September 16), ?Adolescents in India are having sex more often and at a younger age and rape is also common in this age group?. Who is to be blamed for this development? Well, who else but our national media? The paper quotes a report of the Ministry of Health and Development as saying that ?young people between the ages of 10 and 25 years make up for 50 per cent of new HIV infections?. That sounds terrible. What is even more devastating are the changes in social mores that call for deep parental introspection. If the Ministry report is to believed ?sexual relations among adolescents tend to start early, involve multiple partners and often are casual? besides which ?they are also characterised by lack of contraception or condom use and occasionally involve coercion and non-consensual experiences?, when will our society wake up? When will readers take the trouble to warn guilty ?national? newspapers that there is a limit to their utter irresponsibility and may soon be asked to pay a price for it?
For the national newspapers, the reader just does not exist. Then there is the hilarious story of Congressmen taking exception to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving a ?major interview? to the editor of Panchajanya, the RSS ?mouthpiece?. In the first place it is extremely gracious on the part of Dr Manmohan Singh to give an ?exclusive? interview to an RSS journal. It shows his liberal vision and his desire to build bridges with Opposition parties. In its turn, Panchajanya (Septmber 19) has been full of praise for the Prime Minister, who is a gentleman to his finger-tips. But Congressmen apparently cannot stomach it. They want to keep the hatred alive. As Deccan Chronicle (September 16) wrote: ?Some Congress leaders are feeling acutely embarrassed by the fact that the Prime Minister´s first interview has gone to an RSS journal, particularly in view of HRD Minister Arjun Singh´s earlier plea that the administration be ?cleansed? of all RSS sympathisers?. Thank God, Dr Singh is not fazed by the lunacy of some Congress ?leaders?.
The Hindu (September 16) quotes him as saying that he does not view the Opposition as his ?enemy?-and that is well said. If other Congress ?leaders? want to spread hatred in the country, let them. If we are to believe The Statesman (September 16), Dr Singh had not given Panchajanya editor Tarun Vijay a formal interview and it was merely ?a ten-minute meeting?. Question: When is a ?meeting? an interview? Does it have to last one hour? It would seem that Dr Singh did not consult Sonia Gandhi on his decision to meet Tarun Vijay. Is this the way Congressmen view the stature of the Prime Minister that he has to get Sonia Gandhi´s permission before be meets anybody? What is the nation coming to?
Tarun Vijay, incidentally, writing in The Indian Express (September 17) wants to know why is it so outrageous for him to appreciate Dr Singh. Wrote the editor of Panchajanya: ?A good person, whether in the Congress or CPM or any other stream of faith, must be saluted, revered and recognised, until he proves us wrong. That is the spirit of pluralism we have imbibed.? Grow up Congress fellows. Incidentally do Congressmen know that Organiser (September 12), the English weekly spokes-journal of the RSS carried an interview with Gurdas Dasgupta, the CPI leader? Dasgupta is the General Secretary of the AITUC and member of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of India (CPI). That Organiser should carry an interview with a CPI leader is in itself an extraordinary event. What it shows is that the RSS is not afraid of contrary views and is truly liberal. Congressman are not. Which is a pity.
Both Panchajanya and Organiser need to be congratulated for their courage and willingness to listen to those who oppose the RSS. It shows how far the RSS has come and how deep the Congress has sunk. The RSS is liberating itself. The Congress is tying itself into knots. Sad, sad, sad.