Is the Indian Media Abusing its Freedom?

image4Ancient Indian sages have said that even Amrit (Divine nectar), the ultimate panacea for all ills, can become poisonous if consumed in excess. They were advocating moderation in everything and counselling against over-indulgence. The celebrated American writer and entrepreneur Mark Twain also said the same thing when he wrote, “Too much of anything is bad.” The same applies very aptly to the Indian mainstream media (MSM).

There is no doubt that the MSM should be free and fearless. It is an important pillar of every democracy and has the responsibility to act as a public watchdog by keeping an eye on the proper functioning of the three arms of the government, namely the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. In India, as indeed elsewhere in the world, the mainstream media has acted as a watchdog against the official excesses and institutional apathy of those wielding clout and power. Our newspapers and the electronic media have often forced the hands of the government as well as that of the political and judicial authorities to take positive action.

There are too many instances to quote, and some of the most recent cases where the MSM has played a crucial role were the Nirbhaya case, the various scams during the Congress regime and the Sheena murder case. If it were not for our vigilant media, probably these cases might have ended up as mere numbers in some dusty government files.

Because of the exemplary roles played by the newspapers and TV news channels, the printed word and the news broadcasts on the TV have had sanctity. There was a time when anything published in a newspaper or telecast on the TV were accepted as the ultimate truth. If anyone doubted what you were saying, you could counter it by saying that it is in the newspapers or was shown on the TV. Such was the authenticity of the mainstream media in India.

In those good old days, journalism was seen as a very noble profession. People took up the pen or became a broadcast journalist mainly because of their inner calling. They fought against injustice and often battled to set things right even against powerful enemies. Those days, the pen was indeed mightier than the sword.

However, lately, things have changed. Journalism has become a mere profession just like that of an accountant, bank clerk, and stock broker. Furthermore, commercialism and profit motive have become the watchwords of the media industry, and ratings and circulation have become its overriding concerns. For the sake of profits and personal gains, some media houses and journalists have made many compromises and given up its moral high ground. Phrases like “envelope journalism” and “paid news” entered the lexicon. Journalists could make or mar the career of people, particularly those in public life, read politicians and celebrities.

This led to an unholy nexus between the corrupt politicians and dishonest media persons. Politicians started using crony journalists to discredit their opponents. Some power-drunk journalists thought they could do anything and get away with it because no politician or government would ever dare to rub them on the wrong side. These journalists were very aware of their rights but often forgot their duties, responsibilities, and work ethics. Blinded by power, many of them became insensitive to our nation’s security issues, and unwittingly, allowed themselves to be used by the enemies. Personal glory and TV ratings were their only objectives. And they were safe because freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by our Indian Constitution.

There have been several instances where some journalists have published or broadcast sensitive information. For example, then Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had slammed sections of the electronic media for their reckless coverage of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by saying that the manner in which some TV channels reported India’s worst terror strike had tactical implications and might have worked to the advantage of the terrorists.

Highlighting that some channels have traditionally not exercised any restraint in their coverage of events that have a bearing on national security, Admiral Mehta had singled out a lady journalist from the English news channel NDTV India and said that irresponsible coverage during the 1999 Kargil war had compromised the security of troops and led to the death of three soldiers. Similarly, General V P Malik (retd), who was the army chief during the Kargil war, has stated in his memoirs that the same female journalist had divulged classified information in her “professional enthusiasm” by revealing that the Army’s next target was ‘Tiger Hill.’

On November 3, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting asked NDTV to take its Hindi channel off the air for a day on November 9 after an inter-ministerial committee found that the TV channel had violated broadcast rules while reporting on the Pak-inspired Pathankot terror attack on January 2 this year by revealing “strategically-sensitive” details of the air base while relaying news from the spot.

Broadcasting rules in India prevent TV channels from beaming live feed of any anti-terror operations. However, this is not the first time a channel has been taken off the air for violating rules. So far, there have been 28 such cases against TV channels.

Furthermore, the media is often accused of character assassination. In Kerala, for instance, an eminent scientist was hauled over the coals a few years ago by the media, accusing him of espionage. Finally, after years of media trial and harassment, the courts absolved him of all the charges. By then, his life and career had been totally ruined, and he had been made a social outcast.

Currently, there is an on-going tussle between journalists and lawyers in Kerala. Journalists are debarred from entering several courts in the state after being accused of misreporting. True democrats will vouch for absolute freedom for the media, but at the same time, they will also insist that no freedom can be used irresponsibly. Hence, it is rightly said that the media which abuses its liberty or indulges in corrupt practices is one of the most dangerous threats to any democracy.

118 thoughts on “Is the Indian Media Abusing its Freedom?

  1. Deepak Parthiban

    While the entire Indian population is working in sync with Narendra Modi, some section is trying to influence sentiments against the government chosen by us.

    Reply
  2. Danish Subzwari

    NO!! Not at all. Asking relevant question does not mean that they are abusing freedom. Atleast NDTV is not like other puppet news channels in India

    Reply
  3. Santosh Ramanand

    I am fully with Dr. Sunil Gupta. What surprises me is that there have been no charges levelled against the media persons who gave away our national security. Military courts should go after them and try them for treason. Please will the authorities do something to set an example so that media does not mess around with our national security

    Reply
  4. GAURAV BHARDWAJ

    IF any media house doing live reporting which was helping to our enemies than media houses also understand their duties & responsibility. they cant be survive to say ” independent media” if they can run big media company than they should also think about country interest and safety.Because as conman person we trust on them. and its only one day ban to realize them not for life time ban

    Reply
  5. lakshmanrao seshagiri

    We need not.However powerful the media organisation may be,that is not the right forum to define about !!! Larger Public Interest..

    Reply
  6. Ramesh Sundarajan

    These so called news channels, run by huge business houses are just behind money. To make money they increase their TRPs by having news rooms turned into reality shows. Whether it was the Mumbai attack or the other attacks, the live telecast of the whole exercise helped the terrorist handlers more than the army people. What ever may be the profession, if it is not done with responsibility and accountability, it will only bring shame instead of fame. The news channels are no exception to this rule.;When profit is their motive, the holier than thou attitude of the media is highly compromised.;It is time they acted bold, impartial, responsible and accountable to redeem their pride!!

    Reply
  7. Vivek Singh

    It is completely dejecting to see people of high calibre and cognitive capabilities choosing to turn blind and support a public authority meant for the public, of the public and by the public in a step that raises a direct question on its integrity and purposeful use of capacities. If the ban was so needed why did it roll back its step on the eve of the Supreme court hearing? Was the government so scared or too linient?
    If the government felt a need to ban this, it should’ve first defined what was inappropriate with NDTV’s reporting. What were the parameters that forced the government to take a bold step of banning the channel. Isn’t it “”incidental”" that this is the same channel not in the good books of most leaders in the ruling party.

    The debate has a long tail. Point of commenting here is not to put finger on someone and say you are wrong but to convey that people have a better case of choosing for themselves rather than being influenced on what is apt and inapt. Just like they will choose in 2019 for the government.

    Reply
  8. Paras Shah

    I am fully agree with Mr. Sunil Gupta and Mr. Santosh Ramanand, few of media houses in India are doing the business and they are least concern with the security and safety of the nation and they all are running behind the money. They don’t have any responsibility toward the nation. Few journalist in India are not at all responsible and they even don’t know what is to be release and what not to be shown. NDTV and Aaj Tak always get the best news channel I fail to understand on what basis they are getting this awards whereas reporters didn’t understand like Brakha Dutt has done the blunder at Kargil War and we lost our 2 to 3 solders. I am in full support with the ban on NDTV. Infect this punishment is very less and they should be ban for at least for week or 15 days

    Reply
  9. Vinay Mishra

    I totally agree with Dr. Sunil Gupta and his views. But also it shall be noted that the kind media is playing the role is not as free speech but more like the Politesse views of the party. Rather uniting for the cause of the Nation and standing the views of the people does not exist and it is more like the views of show anchored is the views of people which is more chores of the some political party.

    The Government shall have taken the tough stand on it no matter what and which guilt or form thinks and could have not mellow down on the national issues and taken the course. There should be some more strict guideline for the Medias but billion dollar question is Who will tie the Bell to Cat?

    Reply
  10. Sisir

    Even before the media and judiciary, it is the governance that is abusing its freedom the most. But are they ever held accountable? Why aren’t there any discussions on this if not?

    1. How many times “”responsible”" ministers have been punished for creating bad law? Are those victimized by such laws ever compensated? Is it more difficult to do so than raising their salaries & perks? Why rapists and murderers are still allowed in the temples of democracy? Why this is not being discussed even before judicial accountability?;2. Why different scales (and laws) are being used for MSM and social media when both are media? Why many pounce on social media as if that is the cause of every wrong in the society while still using it at every opportune occasion? Why no debates on abuse of SM?

    3. In the name of reaching out, politicians abusing social media for having visibility and winning elections can also be called a part of governance, apart from numerous inaugurations, meetings, cultural events and so on, in which they spend their “”valuable”" time?

    4. Since when religion has become a part of governance in India while the constitution says that it is a secular state? Is it that those in governance can abuse their powers but they only blame other institutions without even looking at the mirror to see their ugly faces even once (sparing a few gentlemen who are genuinely trying to make a difference)?

    Reply
  11. Abraham Peter

    All loose ends must be tied not just the media.. If the so called lady was reporting plans of Indian Army, someone from the Army was divulging such details to her. All government institutions, Armed forces etc. must ensure that only the authorized spokesperson speaks to the media. Our PM has told this multiple times, but people just cant shut up

    Reply
  12. Prabhat Kumar

    Certainly business interest and TRP are the goal, so certainly govt. should and must think for nation security. Pranab Roy is just behind money and Arnab Goswami

    Reply
  13. S.S. Marthandam

    During the Indian cricket teams tour of Australia in 2007, Harbhajan Singh was charged with racially abusing Andrew Symonds. When it was pointed out that Andrews own team mates used similar language, it was pointed out that “it is different between friends”. Got it? As long as the general atmosphere in India is charged, these difference of opinions will not change. You can expect more

    Reply
  14. Jamal Afroz

    If the Ban was solely for Country sake, then it should be welcomed, and same course of action should be taken against all media who broadcast similar kind. Action should also be taken against the government authority who welcomed ISI to investigate the Pathankot matter. But, if it is politically motivated to ban certain media as it is not supporting, all the deeds of the leaders of ruling party, then its wrong…

    Reply
  15. Raffy Orencia

    The first check against abuse in media must be in media, itself, for media to remain free; otherwise, the law and political forces would join the fray.

    Reply
  16. satya penmatsa

    Yes, No doubt. Too much freedom is given/taken by media in India. Senseless anchors, talk what they want for rhythm, and working mainly for TRP ratings

    Reply
  17. hemant chavan

    Yes NDTV which I call it Naxalites development television due to its support to Naxalites and anti nationals

    Reply
  18. Prasad Rayaprolu

    It could be opt to say Negative Media in India. The only concentration is on sensationalize the issue and repeatedly air the same topic for hours together. They will cover few issues in the whole day rather covering more issues or topics which would create positive thoughts across

    Reply
  19. Jagarnath sharma

    this is right decision to ban. my opinion ban for lifetime bz ndtv always told lie and divided policymakers.

    Reply
  20. REVATHI SRIDHARAN

    I totally agree to the views on journalism and media channels these days. But how much ever rules and regulations be imposed or get implemented, ultimately it is the sincerity, ethics, self discipline of the persons that matter. Whoever is in service to public, like teachers, doctors , journalists etc. should realise that they are in a noble profession and carry out their job with responsibility

    Reply
  21. satya penmatsa

    Any society is governed by morals, ethics, and law.Unfortunately, only law can be forced, and that too difficult in India, forget about morals and ethics, this is the reason we are in the pathetic situation

    Reply
  22. Sangram Nayak

    Some times our over enthusiasm for publicity proved fatal for the nation’s strategic interest. We should be careful about vulnerability

    Reply
  23. Sanjaya Ganesh Hariharan

    Actually I would prefer banning all media and we go back to Doordarshan days when we get to hear news once a day or twice a day. Waste of time and energy and productivity of a nation

    Reply
  24. Sundaresh Biligi

    Not sure its just the media ! Anyways, media especially when sponsored or funded by foreign countries try to carry on their agenda and hence can not remain neutral on news reporting. Hence it is essential to have only those which are internally funded. Meaning we will fight our battles with in and we dont need a foreign sponsor or referee or lobbyist !

    Reply
  25. Deepshikha Soni

    NDTV needs to be banned forever. This channel clearly runs via hawala money coming from Dawood & Saudi Masters

    Reply
  26. Shankara Narayanan

    “Ban of NDTV should be SHUT DOWN Permanently. They made live broadcast while Mumbai CST attack to help out the terrorists and culprits.

    Supreme Court has been already condemned this live broadcast @ Mumbai Terror.
    khoon ki dalali”

    Reply
  27. Gourav Bhattacharya

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read.. I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. I have got you book marked to check out new stuff you post

    Reply
  28. Murali BallavaRAPU

    “Freedom of Expression is like a nuclear missile …
    It could be useful to save people, families, society and countries if it fell in the hands of a good and intellectual and ethical leader …

    But it will become a Anti-democratic and Anti-Human destructive instrument if it fell in the hands of Terrorists ….
    SO this NDTV has become such a Anti-democratic and Anti-Indian element using the freedom of Expression instrument for the division of country …”

    Reply
  29. Aashish Vidhani

    Rahul Gandhi forgot that his grandmother imposed emergency in 1970s and put most leaders and journalists behind the bars for opposing her prime ministership.

    Reply
  30. A R Sundararajan

    the amount of agency you deserve is exactly the amount of agency and cognizance you attribute to others, namely, the taxpaying middle-class with limited vocabulary and not having American ivy league degrees or write abstract/absurd dramas, that still believe in silly virtues, like army, nation, love, patriotism, justice, and so on,’
    media manufactures reality to suit their convenience and money (where else you can make millions simply waxing, and crying for Burwanis, the timid AK47-wielding son of a schoolteacher, or stand shoulder to shoulder, or even closer, to those who want Bharat ka tukde tukde)
    and the media can no longer influence people, poor people don’t watch NDTV (even Hindi) and they don’t care…NDTV is a criminal organization and its nefarious designs will come to the fore in the not-too-distant future, in a court of law, that is…BDutt claims she is against organized religion, but a Buddhist, so, even for Buddhists karma holds, and the seven realms, and karma, if anything, is a bitch, who will come to bite you in the back when you least expect it, BDutt and other notorious, cocktail-circuit commies included
    and commies know if it were China, they would have been shot by now, and we are a democracy, and these people make good use of it, go back to their posh/plush residences and comfortably crying into their wine goblets for the poor and downtrodden and assorted 30-year-old students(?) who bite the hands that feed them

    Reply
  31. Syed Sayeed Khundmiry

    Every individual Indian has Right to Speak with Truth point of view, weather it may be Media or Politicians or Ruling Party, must & should be keep Transparency while dealing with Government of India Constitution & it’s Citizens

    Reply
  32. Svijaya Luxmi

    freedom. of speech doesant mean anyone can talk anything about anyone without control and limits its obusing others which violates their freedom. in india its become now tgat anyone can tlk anything its becoming trend shld be put to an end

    Reply
  33. Shadab Anwar

    What is the reason to ban NDTV india ?
    Attack on media is attack on freedom of speech

    #IAmWithNDTV
    #IamWithRavishKumar

    Reply
  34. Babli Gupta

    yes it is but no worry enough people expressing outrage meanwhile the channel using back channels has reached a compromise so everything jogs along.where does that leave the anchor?

    Reply
  35. Douglas Peter

    “A very provocative title of the article.. Will surely get attention.

    One of the most transparent and credible organizations NDTV, should not be maligned like this.
    Let Government & the organization settle the issue amicably”

    Reply
  36. A K JALAN

    yes . they are. we wanted in india, bold step taken by the government must prevail upon for some more time.but the government at the center has failed miserably

    Reply
  37. Kumar C

    Cant blame the whole Media Fraternity, but yes, the fact is undeniable that, few channels are taking a side, which is not right and is not in the interest of the honour of the 4th estate of the constitution

    Reply
  38. Nandini Ramakrishnan

    Journalism, nowadays is circumscribed to little words as “pro” and “anti”. The broadcasting yardstick differs or rather based on the fact that a particular channel is pro -government or anti government. Journalism is not at all expected to confine its limits with individual cases like nirbhaya or Sheena’s murder. Come on, journalism is more than that. Scams or wrong moves can be sited as illustrations from any government and so as the violations of broadcasting rule. Maybe NDTV is made to “shut” so that it won’t comment on the monetary ban on 500 and 1000 rupee notes

    Reply
  39. Puneet S Monga

    Seems obvious and in last 2 days it seems NDTV was celebrating the revoke and claiming a victory in small battle…

    In the process NAMO seems preparing for WAR against bigger matter… and in the scheme of things every CHannel matters including what ever audience does NDTV caters..

    Reply
  40. John Victor

    To ban or not to cannot be the whim of any govt. what people like to see, is if indeed the govt acted fairly in doing so. Its NDTV today and it could some other channel

    Reply
  41. Radhey Yadav

    Banning NDTV will set right expectations and boundaries for all other media houses.. freedom of speech cannot be abused and should be interest of the Nation.

    Reply
  42. Nainish Nimkar

    The way China succeeded in its economic policy stance should be the way for Indian prime minister. And if that way is of curbing excessive independence of certain bodies, it is not at all wrong.

    Reply
  43. Japneet Singh

    By looking at the website of NDTV it becomes clear that they are promoting anti-Modi elements. You can even see articles on and by Kanhaiya Kumar of JNU. This is something not acceptable and highy dangerous.

    Reply
  44. Piyush kumar nanda

    Barkha Dutt was elevated to such heights after Kargil coverage that she forgot what media ethics and morals are. She is a pure capitalist, which she admits.

    Reply
  45. Neeraj Karmodiya

    When there is a provision under law that news channels should abide by certain rules then why cry foul if a channel is found breaking these rules? If they have committed wrong, they ought to be punished.

    Reply
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    Reply
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    Reply
  48. Divesh Mehta

    I am with PM Modi on most of his policy actions but banning a news channel is something even I would condemn. You are open to debate them in public, why place bans on them?

    Reply
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