Fake News: Muzzling the Media is Not How to Counter It

Ananya S Guha

The issue of fake news has been trumped to muzzle the media. Or at least there was an attempt by the Information & Broadcasting Minister. Till of course the Prime Minister intervening. His intervention indicates how powerful the media is in India, and even the Prime Minister does not want to antagonize it. By snubbing his Minister the Prime Minister averted a crisis, a crisis which could have rocked the country and engulfed it. But it all started with the spurious website The Post Card, which it was proven published false information about a Jain monk being attacked by Muslims. Yet some in the government actually supported it followed by a barrage of tweets by Ministers attacking the press. That prefaced the issue of a notification stating that any media person publishing false information would be impugned. One can see that the irony is telling. On the one hand you defend a website which is fraudulent, on the other you become holy and pious. This seems to be the medley of contradictions in the ruling party today. A new tone of double speak. A new way of inciting passions. Justifying the wrong and then doing a double turn of pretension.

The Prime Minister knew that this would be a risk, in taking on the media in this bizarre manner. Now the matter of such fake media will be handed over to reconstituted committees such as the Press Council of India. And we know that they are government representatives who will not demur from a government standpoint. The issue will become more engrossing, more subject to debate and once again we will have to watch how the government behaves, because the raw nerves of the media has been more than tingled. The Indian media has two broad categories. One elitist and the other in the small towns or villages, who struggle financially but who more often than not incur the wrath of goons, local mafias with political nexus for their exposures on corruption and public dealing. They are often terrorized and even murdered. It recently happened in Bihar and the Gauri Lankesh murder is still haunting the conscience of a nation. When a journalist highlights the truth for many it is a lie. So what is false information? Was not the attempt of the Ministry of I & B to cleverly create a pretext for victimization? This interpretative act of what is false, or what is not is subjective and could have given a handle to harass and arrest. This would have led to nation wide protests. However the PMO sought to rescind it and prevented the bomb from exploding. It is still ticking because the crafty deviousness hatched in the game plan has been understood.

Now let us look at the divisions in the country today taking place: Hindu Muslim, Dalits and caste, Poor and rich farmers, the South and the North. And now the journalists and the govt. It is a most corrosive situation endangering political, social and religious harmony. And the reasons for it? The double speak of the powers that be. Mouthing secular ideology but practicing ethnicity and communal card. Focusing on the temple, the statue and glorifying a religion fashioned on mythic lines, and whipping up passion in this context. Not focusing on health and education. Doing anything and everything to come to political power in every part of the country and thus playing with regional and local sentiments. All the above is a dangerous play with the health of a nation. The only medicine is to extirpate the germs and diseases that have infested the body ( politic) of the Nation, a great one; now comatose.

The Dalit explosion is an expression of pent up anger. The Supreme Court verdict only exacerbated it. The farmers’ agitation was a fight for economic justice. The Bihar and West Bengal riots was a result of propelled polarization based on religion. The journalists’ protest was as a result to stifle and oppress the media. Teachers and students are also disgruntled, especially on account of the CBSE question paper leak. Aspirant employees are angry about recruitment question paper leaks. Is the country controlled by a mafia who seem to be colluding with each other in different parts of the country, playing to a precise game plan, sweetly timed?

You might get the votes in 2019 but it will be over ruinous heaps of murder and fratricide.Or will the anger be directed at the ballot and not the bullet? History has infinite possibilities. It will will deal with all exegesis, all points and counterpoints tellingly.

Ananya S Guha