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Hatred being incited in guise of news

   By Vijay Darda | 16-01-2023

Hate speeches and vitriolic debates on TV channels are causing serious damage to the social fabric of the country

Vijay Darda

Last week, the Supreme Court made a very serious remark on the news channels. Justice K M Joseph and Justice B V Nagarathna categorically stated that hate speeches have become a major threat and therefore, they need to be curbed. If an anchor becomes a part of the problem of hate propaganda, why can’t he or she be taken off the air? While the news channels are competing for TRP, the society is facing the threat of division.

The observation of the Supreme Court is quite relevant. I have been in the profession of journalism for the last 50 years. I have seen the changing era of journalism very closely and deeply. I have seen the technology change. I have seen the emergence of new mediums. Earlier, there was only print, then came TV and now I am watching news flashing at the speed of the internet. It is natural for the technology to change and change with time is natural too. However, be it a reader or a viewer, he or she has faith in the sanctity of journalism. Whatever happens, this trust should not be broken. I feel proud that Lokmat Media Group has made every possible effort to maintain this sanctity of journalism and has been successful in it too. India’s print media is mature to a large extent and as the printed words can be seen, its credibility cannot be questioned. On the contrary, there is no guarantee of what is being shown on the TV screen now and what will happen the next moment. Many a time, I see that some news appears on the screen only to disappear in the next few minutes! This happens because of the competition in the name of dishing out news.

Speed is very important in every field of life, but is speed everything? What if the speed becomes unrestrained? Naturally, it will cause an accident! This is what is happening on TV channels. I do not say that this is happening in all the channels, but when many fish in the pond rot, you can imagine the plight of the healthy fish. Things are like this! Journalism clearly appears to be divided into two parts. One is the North Pole and the other is the South Pole! The electronic media serves the news and debates according to their positions. But the moot question is who do they invite in their TV studios for debate? The one who has nothing to do with the subject is imparting knowledge. In fact, TV channels do not look for subject experts and even if they find them, they do not ask the right questions because they want only those with nuisance value!

If you take a look at the history of Indian TV, the aim of starting the tradition of debate was to give the readers proper and serious information about the subject. But now after listening to and seeing most of the debates, it seems that the debates only generate shrill noise. The anchor who moderates the debate sometimes becomes so impatient that he does not even allow the guests in the debate to speak. He keeps the debate going around what he wishes the guest to say. There is no effect of such futile debates on general topics, but when it comes to religious beliefs, the situation turns ugly. TV channels collect such people from different sides who have no respect for such things as communal harmony. I don’t know what kind of dialogue takes place between them after the TV debate, but on the TV screen, I see them engaged in a cockfight. As soon as any political leader makes any frivolous and provocative statement, the TV channels blow it out of proportion and provoke a full-scale debate. In the print media, we also publish that provocative statement but in a manner that it does not create any sensation. On the other hand, the electronic media plays that piece of inflammatory speech again and again to sensationalise the situation. There is also competition among the TV channels to spread sensation. Every channel wants more and more viewers to visit its channel and get more TRP. This dangerous trend is only increasing. I have no hesitation in saying that anchors add fuel to the fire. The Supreme Court has rightly said that when an anchor becomes a part of hate propaganda, why should he not be removed? The question is how many have been removed to date?

It is an established practice of journalism that the newspaper should not publish such an article or the electronic media should not create such a debate on the TV screen that could hurt someone’s sentiments! It is unfortunate that TV channels have almost done away with this established principle of neutrality. There are many TV anchors who act as if they are a party to the debate. If they cannot maintain the balance themselves, how can they keep the speakers spewing venom restrained? Listening to a debate sometimes, one gets annoyed to the extent of questioning their level of knowledge and whether TRP is greater than the interest of the country.

It is very essential to keep in mind that when our democracy is maturing, our electronic media should mature too. Topics that harm the social fabric of the country should be avoided. We have some channels which maintain seriousness but I would also like to say that it is not right to divide the media into the North Pole and the South Pole. Our path should be straight. Our approach should be straight. We cannot even give the government the right to regulate TV channels because there can be apprehensions over that too. That’s why it is very important that TV channels restrain themselves. The debate should be aimed at making the country strong. It is very important to protect ourselves from the sinister vice of hatred.

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