Is news sacred and is comment free?

Or are the times a-changing?

Is news sacred and is comment free?

Is news sacred, comment free? Is this a popular belief or a hyperbole in the times and the world we live in? Are the beliefs of intellectuals grounded in certain ideals or reality? Is it hard to tell or not so hard to tell whether the purveyors with the proverbial nose for the news in print and electronic media, are overly careful not to step on the toes of certain people and institutions in these times when nothing can be taken for granted?

Is the Fourth Estate, one of the four pillars of democracy, beginning to realize that its several components must tread carefully so as not to encounter pebbles, stones, barriers and road blocks? Although there are many brave hearts in this game committed to the great idea of freedom of the Press in general terms, are there warning signals being thrown up, gently and at times not so gently?

Why do these forebodings seem to be on the horizon? Is it because one of the biggest scams of recent times has come to the surface just now and the perpetrator has not only bolted from the stables, but has winged away from India in the most luxurious flight available or a fully chartered flight?

Are those who should have nabbed him and booked him before he vanished feeling aghast? They do not appear to be, but they are insisting that they are shocked and left feeling aghast at the goings on. But on their own watch, did they try to take preventive steps? Commentators have drawn a lurid picture of the days to come. On the contrary, they raise uncomfortable questions to the inquirers. Don’t look for skeletons, look deep and backwards, they say.

The scam perpetrated by Nirav Modi, the diamond man, perhaps one of the biggest of all time, has quietly taken away just two billion rupees without batting an eyelid and the rookie has taken Punjab National Bank for a ride with Rs.11,400 crores, which he thinks is peanuts. The bankers invited one of his principal aides to demand their money, but he ticked them off with a “go to hell” message and added: “We will not pay. Do what you like.”


The rulers of the day, are they sanguine? They insist that the racket started in the UPA time in 2011. “Don’t blame us. Catch those who are now in the truncated Opposition. Ask them about it. We are doing our best. We have already seized diamonds, jewellery and property worth close to Rs. 4,000 crores belonging to Nirav Modi. We are not stopping. We will recover, may be Rs.10,000 crores before long. We have initiated proceedings to extradite him wherever he is hiding”.

Yet the scam, it is being said, could hit a much larger sum like Rs. 20,000 crores and affect 30 banks and the game could become a marathon. But let India rub its eye in awe of the proverbial robbers, answerable to no one. Will they be able to hide away like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi and several others who have been forgotten for years now and live in comfort and luxury in fine places on the globe.

News channels in the English language as well as other languages are already cautious; so are readers about print, expecting to be served unbiased fare; are they able to view and read the truth? Is the jury out on this?

Prime time viewing of news may be heir to a new kind of slanting. Besides, it is par for the course to spew venom before and after the 9 p.m slots; there is expression of heated and angry arguments by anchors and so-called experts with prejudiced minds, just to cover up their slanted attitudes.

Liberal views were the expected norm even as media at times revealed a pronounced tilt, according to Santosh Desai writing in the Times of India. He adds: “But leaning to one side and being open to a particular viewpoint over another is not the same thing as presenting news in a permanently accusatory manner representing only one point of view. News can be slanted, but first it has to qualify as news. This is becoming increasingly hard to find, particularly on television… The polls being run by news channels are absurdly one-sided. A recent poll by an English news channel was phrased thus: Do you support the unsparing nationwide crackdown by the Modi government on bank loot and corruption?

“To take the side of the government is the prerogative of the media outlet, but to become its presumptive advocate crosses the line and being biased rather than having one’s own view”.

Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.


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