27 Dec 2022  |   07:33am IST

Great civilisations are characterised by media that serves people and not establishments

Has our media asked the right questions and taken up people’s issues?
Great civilisations are characterised by media that serves people and  not establishments

Don’t let anyone let you put up with any injustice, there comes a moment when you have to shout, and rebel. Strike back if necessary- Lines in the important Western classic film shot in Valencia Spain in 1971- Trinity Sees Red

This was a fictional call in one of the greatest movies ever made. But the message in the call is not fictional. It is a cry to speak out against injustice and Goa has proud examples of this. But the question that we need to ask is if our media is carrying the voice of the people.

One of the strongest institutions of democracy is the media.

Institutions in any form of governance are created ultimately to serve the people. Or at least that is the projected objective of any entity in power.  The media, from the time of its inception in democracy to now draws its ordinary objective from this need- serve the people, because civilisation, politics, and governance all have one master- the polis or the people.

It was commonly agreed that a polis, in ancient Greece, is a community of citizens organised under a constitution, usually based in an urban centre.

From then to now, in countries and cities and states and any administrative unit, the service of citizens is a ‘political’ service.

 An ordinary pen of a true journalist has more credibility than a luxurious pen tucked into a crisp white shirt of any politician with greed who is not with the people

Politics does not mean the service of and benefit of politicians but of citizens. Journalism is about how effectively you use your biggest weapon, your pen, the symbol of integrity and the vehicle for truth.

Even an ordinary pen paired with a simple notebook has more power and credibility than the expensive luxurious pens tucked into the pockets of crisp white shirts worn by politicians.

Therefore won’t the upright journalists have more credibility than those who are conveniently silent about land grabbing mafia, corrupt policemen who harass the power and salute the rich, don’t take on the rave party and trance music and drugs mafia, do not expose “holy” people who dabble in politics and misguide and mislead people, misusing the respect the people give to them or do not point out selfish, vindictive and power centric politicians who memorials are built on beach fronts.

Issues troubling Goans need intense attention- from no taxis to broken glass on the beaches

Our beaches are meant for the relaxation of not just tourists but for locals. They are places for the family. Beaches may be tourist hotspots, but they are our local assets too. Families can’t go in t the sea because it’s full of filth. They can even walk on the sand because it’s full of broken glass bottles. They need the support of the media to be a vehicle for their distress.

Over the years lakhs of migrants have encroached on our comunidade land, build homes, and politicians because of their vote banks, regularise them. They get ration cards and voting rights. At the same time, our sons and daughters of the soil have their fields flooded, their trees cut, and their homes “acquired” with no rehabilitation or compensation.

Why can’t our education system and skill development system give the confidence to young Goans to further their careers or businesses here rather than escape in hordes and even change their passports?

Who is responsible? Shouldn’t the press be the support system of the people, to fight this, in a democratic way, to make democracy stronger and just?

The “independent” media of our country has had a rich tradition of upholding democracy for themselves and for the people who read, watch and listen to them. The role played by newspapers in the time of the Emergency, like The Indian Express and The Statesman, which even ran blank pages in protest against press censorships, were proud moments of Indian journalism. They refused to be shackled and maintained the robust tradition of keeping people first.

Over the years, our media has become politician first. If a politician truly represents the polity or the polis (i.e. the community of citizens)  it is understandable. But that is not the case. If a politician truly wants to serve the people he or she should be above their parties, if he is elected, then he is elected to serve all and take decisions that matter to the common citizens, and not the powerful who can unfortunately buy the system.

Serving and reporting for the people is what the media must do. Let us ask if it is doing so.

Across Goa, there are stories of distress that we have relentlessly pursued. Distress is in the form of injustice, loss of livelihoods, destruction of homes and fields, and so on. Then there are large-scale people’s movements against distress caused to the people by decisions taken by establishments, like the Major Ports bill converting MPT into an Authority with all powers vested in it, overriding local bodies, the construction of power lines through the Mollem forests, the reluctance to construct the Western bypass on stilts, and the multiple land acquisition procedures, where the people losing their lands have felt a sense of acute loss.

How much of this has been reported in our local publications?  These are issues that override religion, communities, political affiliations, and interests. It should override party politics and biases.

Injustice is injustice, and dispassionate reportage of injustices is what is needed. And to do that questions have to be asked without compromise

Like parents who cannot choose between their children, the media cannot be selective or elective in its pursuit of justice on behalf of the people they serve. If anything the bias should be towards the people who suffer and are in need and not the establishment.

But Goa is not unique. As P Sainath, India’s most credible and respected rural journalist said in 2017,  “The coverage of agriculture reporting in an Indian national daily equal to 0.61 per cent, while the village-level stories appear on an average of 0.17 per cent. That means, 75% of the Indian population doesn’t matter to the Indian media. They don’t constitute news, and you remove them structurally.”

 

Sainath also echoed the sentiment of the very fictional lines with which this piece began. He said, “Dissent, discussion, and representation of every section and gender of our society form the fabric and birth of this profession.”


Good journalism is a society in conversation and argument with herself. Journalism needs to be an archive of the living past, a journal of the contemporary present, and a textbook of the future, lines again spoken by the great Sainath.


Yes, the establishment has a role too. To simply be on the side of the people and if one sees that establishment, it must be respected and supported because it carries the people’s flag and not any party’s flag.

Dissent is the core of journalism, if people are fighting for what is right. Sainath again hits the nail on the head when he says.

“There is no such thing has a great establishment journalist. They will be forgotten five years after they have retired. The ones whose name you remember were all in their time and place, dissidents. From Thomas Paine to a Gandhi to Ambedkar, every one of them was a dissident.”

Yet, there are leaders and politicians whose lives and work are all about people. These gems should never be forgotten and be accepted in leadership roles giving scope for more ordinary people who get into mainstream public life to lead, as one the people. Even some very learned and people-friendly Governors we have seen closely are perfect examples of great people-oriented leadership.

Therefore, our media must touch on issues that matter, use their pen for justice and follow only one leader- the people. Or else democracy will be a vast wasteland full of the debris of demolished dreams.

 


IDhar UDHAR

IDHAR UDHAR