Proper coverage of “deprivation”: Ethical considerations for students of Indian journalism

Asian College of Journalism: Covering Deprivation

During the second term, all students take a required course— the only one of its kind taught by a journalism school anywhere in the world — Covering Deprivation.

“Deprivation” refers to the inability of individuals in a society to achieve basic human functionings. Among these are the ability to live a long and healthy life free from avoidable disease and hunger, and the opportunity to be educated and to have access to resources needed for a socially acceptable standard of living. Some forms of deprivation may apply to all, or to the majority of, the members of specific social groups (such as Dalits) or classes (such as landless agricultural labourers).

Although deprivation so defined is a huge part of contemporary Indian reality both in the countryside and in cities, the mainstream media do not generally give it informed, sustained coverage. […]
The course culminates in an extended field trip, following which students present their findings in The Word, as television and radio features, or in www.Covering Deprivation.acjnewsline.org depending on their stream. ACJ [Asian College of Journalism] students, in collaboration with UNICEF, cover issues of deprivation affecting children. These stories are archived in an online portal. […]

Source: Covering Deprivation – ACJ
Address: https://asianmedia.in/acj/programme/covering-deprivation/
Date Visited: 26 March 2020

Mass indoctrination

First, let us recognise that there is a manic irrationality that is being carefully seeded in Indian society today and that hate-filled words have an impact on the rights and well-being of all. This process involves consistent and repetitive hate speech and fear speech against minority groups by Hindutva ideologues, which is resulting in a mass cult-like indoctrination aimed at making Hindus believe that they are under immediate threat by those that are not exactly like them. In doing so, a non-existent and unverified threat is manufactured and presented. […]

In India we do not make a distinction between hate speech and fear speech. Hate speech (speech that expresses threats, abuse, violence and prejudice) against any community works most effectively when the public sphere has first been saturated with fear speech. Fear speech expresses unknown and unverifiable threats that create a sense of anxiety and panic in individuals. It is purposefully vague. […]

What is becoming clear is that the current Indian state seeks to turn common Hindu citizens into enforcers of its majoritarian vision at the neighbourhood level. […]

This is most certainly a dangerous path for India because mass political and social radicalisation does not come with power-steering. Those in power would be well advised to start making the moves to check this growing radicalisation as effectively as they seem to move to check the fictitious anti-national activities of their fictitious domestic enemies.

Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan is a political scientist and journalist. She is also the creator of the India Violence Archive, a citizen’s data initiative aimed at recording collective public violence in India.

Source: Editorial by Va­sund­hara Sir­nate Dren­nan, The Hindu, 30 December 2021
URL: https://www.thehindu.com
Date Visited: 30 December 2021

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While occasionally some changes to my text were made without my consent, there was no attempt to get me to rewrite my column or change its arguments. Until … – Historian Ramachandra Guha whose books include India After Gandhi and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World (Column for The Wire, “Government”, 19 April 2020)

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by searching Indian periodicals and viewing posts on media portrayal >>

India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly.

Source: 2021 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without borders
URL: https://rsf.org/en/india
Date visited: 17 December 2021

[T]here have been constant press freedom violations […] The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers are alarming and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. […] India’s ranking 2020 (monitored since 2013): 142 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index (-2, 140 in 2019) | View the full overview here >>

Source: 2020 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without borders
URL: https://rsf.org/en/india
Date visited: 21 April 2020

Five ethical problems that plague Indian journalism

A global study warns that India’s media boom will be worthless unless these issues are fixed soon.

India’s gargantuan news market has 82,222 newspapers; Delhi alone has 16 English dailies in circulation. It has close to 800 television news channels, an industry that has almost trebled between 2006 and 2014. Added to that are 124 million broadband Internet connections and 1,500 state-owned, privately-owned and community radio stations. […]

If the five debilitating problems in the Indian media are not fixed then India’s media boom will be worthless to journalism, writes Panneerselvan. “Even worse, it will of no value to India’s more than 1.2 billion people who may have more infotainment, sensationalism and political spin at their disposal but who will remain ignorant of the facts and analysis of events around them. When that happens the world’s largest democracy will be seriously weakened.”

1) Paid news
Paneerselvan, who is also readers’ editor of The Hindu, traces the origins of the unethical practice of paid news back to the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991. With market forces at play and public investment in private companies, journalists found it sometimes lucrative to write only partially true stories of companies waiting to list on the stock exchanges. […]

2) Opaque private treaties
[…] P Sainath was one journalist who exposed the nexus of political and corporate entities in the news media through such schemes. […]

3) Blatant blackmail […]

4) Widening legal regulatory gap
The Press Council of India has dragged its feet on addressing paid news and other unethical practices, according to the EJN report. […]

5) Flawed measurements of audience reach and readership
The yardsticks to measure the reach and impact of the Indian media are dubious at best, the report says. […]

Source: “Five ethical problems that plague Indian journalism”, Scroll.in, 19 March 2015
Address: https://scroll.in/article/714570/five-ethical-problems-that-plague-indian-journalism
Date visited: 17 December 2021

Video speech by Ananya Roy, co-author of Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World >>

[…] We live in an era of stark social and economic inequality. Across the world, the hoarding of wealth by the rich and powerful rests on the exploitation and impoverishment of marginalized communities.

It is no stretch to argue that the problem of the 21st century is the enduring problem of the color line. We live in an era of resurgent right-wing nationalism. From India to Brazil, Europe to the United States, xenophobia is a structuring logic of state power and statecraft. The color line is evident in violent embodiments: Black killings by police, Muslim lynchings, human caging, and most of all at the militarized borders of desert and sea that are ghostly and ghastly deathscapes. These deadly places, crossings that have been deliberately turned into places of death, today guard Fortress Europe and the American homeland. The color line then is not just a map of segregation and exclusion; it is a site of death, a negation of personhood, or what Lisa Marie Cacho (2012) has called “racialized rightlessness.”

But my theorization of radical democracy also rests on two related points. First, the freedom dreams that animate today’s reconstruction of democracy are not advanced by elite institutions or state power. Instead, they emerge from grassroots organizing and poor people’s movements. They emerge from collective action forged in the shared condition of precarity. […]

The radical democracy of which I dream, and which I see in the making all around me, is driven by rigorous intellectual visions and global theorizations. And these often come from forgotten places. Today, sophisticated understandings of property and rent, of debt and speculation, of assets and welfare, of income and profit, come from social movements. Today, rich frameworks of citizenship and belonging, of rights and refuge, come from hip-hop musicians, incarcerated artists, and border activists. […]

Source: Video speech by Ananya Roy (“55 Voices for Democracy” (14 December 2019)
URL: https://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/55-voices/55-voices-democracy-ananya-roy/
Date visited: 17 December 2021

How ‘Stolen Words’ Harm Democracy by Emmy-nominated journalist Melissa Chan >>

Democracy is personal to me.[…]

Sure — democracy, first articulated, is Greek in origin. Europe provided the lexicon for it and its components. But just because it did, does not mean the desire for democracy, the desire for human rights, does not exist in every single one of us. […]

Let’s explain to people it’s not just about voting — it’s about that opportunity to right the wrongs. And it isn’t only about the high stakes social justice battles that might seem abstract for those it doesn’t touch, for those more focused on their day-to-day. A democratic system is also about terribly mundane things. A business dispute, where you can sue some person or entity, and know that you’ll have a fair day in court. It’s about parents who have a voice in what the state’s education system teaches their children. It’s about understanding that bad things happen to good people everywhere, but in an open society, you are empowered to fight back if need be. […]

[When] I think about the long arc of human history, our timeline mostly and vastly a default of monarchies, empires, and despots, and I despair. Democracy is a blip on this timeline, and if we want it to persist, there can be no complacency. Every generation needs to fight for it.

Source: “How ‘Stolen Words’ Harm Democracy” by Melissa Chan (55 Voices for Democracy, 23 July 2021)
URL: https://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/55-voices/55-voices-democracy-stolen-words-harm-democracy-melissa-chan/
Date visited: 17 December 2021

Tip: video of talks by Ananya Roy, Melissa Chan and other contributors to “55 Voices for Democracy” can be viewed here >>

More about 55 Voices for Democracy

“55 Voices for Democracy” is inspired by the 55 BBC radio addresses Thomas Mann delivered from his home in California to thousands of listeners in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and the occupied Netherlands and Czechoslovakia between October 1940 and November 1945. In his monthly addresses Mann spoke out strongly against fascism, becoming the most significant German defender of democracy in exile. Building on that legacy, “55 Voices” brings together internationally esteemed intellectuals, scientists, and artists to present ideas for the renewal of democracy in our own troubled times. The series is presented by the Thomas Mann House in partnership with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Deutschlandfunk.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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