• Raajveer Singh Bisht

The Fourth Estate

Updated: Sep 1, 2019

The recent hostile Indian reaction to BBC and Al-Jazeera’s reporting of Kashmir is telling of the cracks emerging in our tolerance of unbiased journalism.

BBC and Al-Jazeera both showcased a clip of an alleged protest in the Kashmir Valley and reported that shots were fired from authorities onto the protestors in the midst of violence and aggression. The government naturally denied this and proclaimed that the law and order situation in the State was perfectly alright.

This is a rather normal scenario that plays out naturally whenever a news organisation reports of any form of unrest in a highly unstable zone (such as Kashmir). The government by default denies this and lays emphasis on there being a peaceful condition in the conflict area for the betterment of law and order as well as national opinion.

The more disturbing part of the story however, emerges once the reaction of the Indian public is gauged. We realise through the streams of barely coherent, curse filled threads and posts on various social media platforms that these two news organisations have been very quickly declared “anti-national”, “working for enemy”, “attempting to destroy the harmony of the nation” and various other outlandish claims that obviously emanate from a place of insecurity.

Now I would be thoroughly lying if I for one second pretended that such a reaction was in any way unique to India. Examples of the United States, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and China paint a clear distinct picture of how a certain portion of the populace is extremely hostile to news which in any way or sense contradicts their own understanding of a deeply complex situation.

This unfortunate culture of shaming the media, declaring them as “fake news” and showcasing a clear intolerance of any form of critical thought and expression has only increased in these past few years reaching proportions once believed to be impossible or ludicrous at the very least.

Now obviously it’s very hard to determine beyond any reasonable doubt the exact happenings of a place like Kashmir given that it is very obviously under extreme lockdown and sources are limited. That being said however, the “jump the gun” behaviour of not only mainstream “nationalist” media but also the pro-government social media influencers is a blight upon our principle of democracy.

One of the estates on which our nation is founded is the media and it plays a critical role in exposing the truth behind government policies and proposals. It is the element which enables the electorate of being aware of the various issues that plague a nation as wide as ours. The hostile, aggressive, borderline fascist manner in which journalism is today being attacked, shamed and outright ostracised by various sectors of our society is the beginning of a toxic culture that threatens the sanctity of our democracy.

Truly woe is inevitable if today we embrace such a reactionary approach to reporting on issues which are without a doubt, extremely complex, multidimensional and heavily entrenched across ideological lines. We are not only sacrificing the integrity of our critical thought, we are doing so at the altar of totalitarian thought.

Standing at what is indeed a flashpoint in history wherein today we can shape the nature of our nation for tomorrow it is imperative that we as citizens of the largest democracy in the world responsible accept journalism and critical thought and use it shape public policy.

Information is the key to safeguarding our democratic structure and if today we allow it to be buried under a myriad of ill-informed rhetoric that is spewed by extremists on both sides we are truly betraying the foundation on which our nation was formed and has since stood against the test of time.

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