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Media & The State

Media HousesBengal is the center of attraction yet again. Unnecessary to say for the wrong reasons again. A recent circular from the Ministry of Libraries caused a furore on mainstream and social media. The government has decided that it will not stock any “politically funded” newspaper in libraries funded by the state.

The decision has been widely criticised across newspapers which did not make it to the select few papers that will be kept at public libraries. Leading the ranks were Anandabazar Patrika and Bartaman. The latter even ran a headline openly threatening the present government of “showing its might”. ABP on the other hand has been in its usual propagandist form.

The national media as usual woke up late to the story and started running headlines which were miles apart from fact and bordered on shoddy fiction. Some papers even ran headlines that the government had banned English dailies. How they come to such conclusions is best known to them. But time has come we take a stock of the situation at hand. Has the fourth pillar of Indian democracy turned itself into Demi God?

It is the duty of the media to present news to the people. “Report not Support” is the motto they should go by. Sadly in India, and specially in Bengal, it is just the opposite. Not only are most newspapers in the state run my people with political affiliations, but some media houses are famous for their ties with certain colours.

Among the reputed dailies which have been kept out of the list of permitted newspapers, inlcude Aajkal (with soft spot for the Left), Bartaman (anti establishment, will go to any length to defame party in power), Anandabazar (have agenda of their own, will support anyone who supports them), Telegraph (product of ABP group), and several other English dailies.

A state government, which runs the libraries, has the prerogative to choose which papers it wants to house in its libraries. Like a school principal has the onus to decide the text book for the school, it is up to the govt to decide what comes into the govt libraries. However inclusion of a newspaper run by a TMC MP shows the initiative by the government in bad light.

The way media has played out this story is really shameful. It has become a free for all, every channel giving their own version of the circular. Some have even gone to the extent of saying circular banned some newspapers from circulation. Is spreading misinfomation the aim of free press?

governmentThe reputation of ABP is quite well known. The same paper which had virtually campaigned for Buddha in 2006, became Mamata’s ally in 2011. A media house deserted by reputed names like Suman Chatterjee, Arkaprava Sarkar. This is the same media house which stooped to lowest levels of propaganda against those who did not conform to the paper’s agenda during Singur agitation, and then made heroes of same person after fall of left regime.

Some people are comparing this act with the ban on several plays against Left Front govt during Singur-Nandigram revolutions. Their basic premise is wrong. In a state enforced ban, that happened in Buddha Babu’s regime, people were forcefully kept away from plays of Kaushik Sen or Saoli Mitra. We did not have any access to those acts. In this case, people are free to read a paper of their choice, albeit outside the state libraries. As “owners” of libraries, it is absolutely justified if a govt has a wishlist of books and papers. Even i would. Or for that matter, my readers.

A large number of people have voiced their angst against the government stepping into their personal freedom. I wonder if the same people ever complain (let alone protest) when the companies they serve unilaterally block websites and social networking platforms in their offices. Just like it is the prerogative of a company to decide what will be available in its office, it is for the state government to decide what it will put up in its libraries. Outside office we are free to access any website we want, similarly beyond the realms of the library, everyone is free to read anything they want.

While we may keep discussing about the government and it trying to impose views on people, is it justified for press to carry stories (with very little base in truth) to form public opinion against a particular government? Is it justified for a media house to stoop to propaganda against a party because they fell out with the media house concerned on a policy decision? Is it right for the fourth estate of democracy to poison people with opinions, knowing very well that they have power without accountability?

What is the role of media in a democracy, i am forced to ask? Has the media become just another manifestation of political class? What should the general public do when a media house wages war threatening of “annihilition” against an elected govt because they do not see eye to eye on an issue of land policy?

My answer would be to boycott those media houses. What about you?

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