All about exercising your rights…

The one who pays the piper plays the tune. And what’s wrong with that? Especially in our country, where corruption has its roots in the most trivial as well as the most important of things, and where money is the buzz word – to make it happen. We have heard the stories of: under-the-table incomes and paid election victories; riots, instigated by politicians for their own personal benefits – we have chomped through each of them, like grandma’s tales, since eternity. It is what we have been taught to accept, and our gullible minds have been trained to nurture, relegating the future of our country to the back of our minds, blissfully enjoying the cosy ambience of our living rooms.
The concept of paid news is the greatest example, in this regard. Newspapers and TV channels have, surprisingly, agreed to vend their space and time to the ones who are willing to pay for it. The distinction between the editorial and the ads has been unabashedly erased, leading to a shameless prostitution of the fourth estate of democracy. Today, politicians can pay for editorial coverage of their campaigns, or a leading businessman can pay to promote his venture – in a way that could very easily be backed by the guarantee of the editor, and can very well be accepted by the reader, without even a tinge of skepticism. This means that newspapers can and perhaps do focus on views, masquerading as news, now. The reason for this blatant blackmailing that is being endorsed by some of the top profit making media houses is quite clear. Greed is obviously the only explicable reason. The concept of paid news definitely brings in, for the news papers and channels, some big bucks. Who cares if the truth is  misinterpreted – a little here and a little there? After all, no one doubts or raises questions on the credibility of these corrupt media houses, and why? Perhaps, because readers do still rely, blindfolded, on the sagacity of the editor. Or they don’t? Well, that is something the journalists are too naïve to answer themselves.

We say – times have now changed, at least for some, if not for all. The term democracy has gone on to be devoured to a greater degree, with every passing decade or a half, reduced now to a twisted contour, open to misinterpretations and manipulations. We have waged protests and rallies, materialized the resignations of various ministries, and exercised our right to vote and many others. No wonder we have grown vigilant and more aware, than our precursors ever were. Loopholes still exist, but where don’t they? Why this blatant misinterpretation of truth is being digested – is a question difficult to answer. We, as readers, have definitely grown digital freaks. Except for skimming through the headlines, there is little else that we do. If that is the case, than probably there lies no harm in continuing the game that has already been started. When the consumers do not bother about the corrupt and maneuvered news, that they are being offered, no question arises as to why their  producers should be blamed.

If the answer to the question is, that the readers are themselves not aware of the on-going dirty activity, then the situation is one of concern. When readers have no clue about the fact that the newspaper has accepted money to establish its judgments, he has no reason to be suspicious of the paper’s claims. The paradox would then be that, whether it is the truth or its grotesque misrepresentation, the newspaper would have the undisputed upper hand. Right or wrong news, the newspaper would be its mouthpiece. The bigger the bidder, the greater would be the space allocated to him. Obviously, as long as the reader continues to take things lying down, the entrenched corruption shall not be wiped off.

The good news is that journalists have finally begun to make the people aware of this practice. The fact that credibility has been well put on sale, is now being highlighted by those who care for media ethics. This, however, is not something that is ample  to end the sleaze. As readers, it is important to put our foot down and demand our rights. The ‘right to information’ enables every citizen to news that is authentic and credible. A closed mind and a complaining attitude can no longer pull the crowd any further.

Dipti Jain

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