(December 13, 2005), as I was listening at my New Jersey home in
the U.S. to an NPR (National Public Radio) program on investigative
journalism in India, I could not help thinking about the motivation
behind my decision nearly six years ago to enter the field of journalism,
a decision that led to the creation of the Indian Institute of Journalism
& New Media in Bangalore. It was during the Kargil war in May
1999 that I had come to the inevitable conclusion about India's
democratic system. I was dismayed by the absence of honest reporting
on the mistakes made by our politicians, the hasty and costly strategies
undertaken by our military commanders, and the undercount of our
casualties. Indian reporters failed to pursue anything resembling
investigative and independent journalism, and the media was generally
prepared to go along with the government's view of things.
my frustration with the widespread corruption in both the government
and private sector and the cynicism on the part of almost everyone
towards the possibility of any positive change, I had felt then,
as I do today, that a free and independent media in India is the
country's best hope. Until the Indian media is prepared to uncover
and report on the corruption and misuse of power by politicians,
government officials, and private companies, the country will not
be able to achieve its full developmental potential in an equal
and fair society. Without transparency in governance, it would be
difficult, if not impossible, to formulate sound policies.
the NPR segment today on India, I feel somewhat vindicated. IIJNM
was founded with one ideal in mind - to improve the quality of the
Indian press. It was my conviction then, as it is today, that it
is our journalism students - the idealists among us -- who will
bring about the necessary change that the country is longing for
-- an open and far less corrupt system.
media has more or less taken the lead. Among the most popular programs
in India, as I understand, are those reporting on corruption and
misdeeds of politicians and government officials. "Candid camera,"
as it is called here in the US, has taken hold in India. It reports
with hidden camera the many true stories of the day -- the bribe
that the police inspector extracts from the victim of a crime before
agreeing to investigate, the "fee" that the government
officer charges for his giving the order to make an electric connection,
and the "contribution" that a company pays a member of
the parliament before bringing up a legislative concern in the Lok
Sabha. These stories are now part of the family entertainment offered
by many TV stations, and believe it or not, those in power are a
lot more careful today.
As many new
TV channels enter the market, there is even greater competition
for viewers. These stations will have to offer something better
and more informative than the ordinary. With foreign media joining
forces with Indian operators, these stations have the financial
backing to produce better programs. Sure, there will be some weeds,
but overall the flowers will brighten up the garden. The nation
will benefit immensely.
radio news broadcast is still a government monopoly. The print media,
especially the daily newspapers, are also monopolized by a few proprietors.
Foreign media is not allowed to have more than 26% of the total
ownership. Consequently, many papers do not have the financial strength
to take on today's major players in the market. When this last bastion
of power in the media is removed from the few proprietors, we can
expect vigorous competition in search of truth. The power of the
pen shall prevail. Neither the politician nor the judiciary will
be able to deny the people's right to information - the truth about
ourselves and our rulers.