Screaming television debates, fighting among the guests with the anchors; the performance of our news television media has gone global in recent years. It has been a peculiar sight to see media channels from India in the conflict zones. Starting from the Ukraine-Russia war to the present Israel-Palestine conflict, the Indian media was there to report on it and rightly so. These conflicts or wars are covered by many media agencies, foreign and domestic, but there is a caveat here for the local media houses in India who, while denying the same courtesy or space to the problems in our own country, from the shocking stories of Manipur to giving equal opportunities to dissenting views.
The act and role that the Indian mainstream media is playing is quite disheartening. When the common people affected by injustice expect their stories of pain and suffering to be presented on a larger canvas, these media houses become silent.
In the case of Manipur, the people of India were shocked and appalled by the crimes being perpetrated on women by a group of men and then they learned about the situation ongoing in Manipur from social media. The state of Manipur was burning for months and there was no coverage whatsoever by large news houses to give the issue a prime time. This sorry state of affairs in the current scenario, to brush aside matters when they are happening and presenting them when there is a potential flare-up for Delhi to act, is a very narrow-mindedness of the journalists for their own country people, while they jump into action for international matters.
The reporters can be seen doing unnecessary reporting exercises in front of moving tanks, some anchors using oddly cringe-worthy VFX of missiles, while others repeating and breaking the same news again and again. The layer to the ongoing story of conflict is now mixed with the circus that the media does in the domestic context and now embarrassingly on the world stage. The Indian media’s sensationalism and jingoism have overshadowed the gravity and complexity of the situation, and have reduced the coverage to a spectacle of noise and spectacle. The media’s role as a responsible and credible source of information has been compromised by its obsession with ratings and sensationalism.
Many of them have been copy-pasting the videos from other geographies and presenting them to their audience, even when they have boots on the ground. One such clip was highlighted by ALT news fact checker Mohammad Zubair on his Twitter account and he writes, “So Hindi News channel @ABPNews has its two reporters @upadhyayabhii & @AshishSinghNews stationed in Israel but broadcasts a 2-year-old video as “Exclusive Video First only on ABP News”. This video was viral in December last year with a misleading Punjabi audio claiming that Illegal immigrants were trying to cross US borders. But this video is from the Israel-Lebanon border in May 2021.”
Draconian usage of laws, crushing the fourth pillar of our democracy has been a tool by the government to line up and curate the stories according to its taste. This, as in popular saying, compelled the media to reflect outwards, then look in or finally sit in the laps of their political masters.