An open letter penned by prominent international media heads addressed to US president Donald Trump against barring several major media outlets from the White House press briefings, was collectively released by the World Editors Forum and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) recently.
Over forty editors in chief, CEOs and publishers representing media from around the world signed a letter sent to the US administration expressing their concern over Trump’s regular attack on the press and exclusion of mainstream media outlets from press briefings. White House resorted to this unusual and perturbing move alleging frequent negative and fake news reporting against the president. The media executives through the letter firmly protested against the governments globally implementing legislatures and autocratic measures that severely damage independent and investigative journalism. One of the important challenges faced by the contemporary media is to maintain the credibility of the media houses by freeing them from news reporting which is either half-true or false. The tendency of certain media outlets to publish source-less fake news spreading through modern media, as true stories is escalating. Even while the media institutions acknowledge this reality, they admit that Journalism in recent times has become a perilous job.
It was during the same time when the global media released their collective statement against the move to deny freedom of the press in the name of publishing disinformation that a shameful incident occurred in Kerala. A news report, an instance of irresponsible journalism, that can be deemed despicable in the state’s history of journalism, surfaced of late. A loathsome tactic adopted by Mangalam, a newly launched Malayalam private television channel to raise the TRPs and to attract public attention brought disgrace not only to the channel but also to the journalists and media institutions across the state. It has led to protests by women journalists and the apology of the channel’s CEO have been rejected. The Union of journalists have also welcomed the judicial inquiry into the alleged sleaze talk involving Minister A K Saseendran. The legal aspects related to the gathering and broadcast of news stories should be examined and the culprits punished. The incident should also compel the media heads to carry out serious rethinking to erase the disgrace and reclaim the credibility loss caused to the media sector.
Press in Kerala isn’t free as well from the increasingly unbecoming tendencies existing in the media field. All media institutions have adopted unflattering practices to varying extents, intentionally and otherwise, to gain popularity among the masses. The countless number of social media outlets and channels lead to the recurrent creation of fake news stories. Media ethics and social commitment are deliberately abandoned during news reporting and while broadcasting visuals in order to achieve more popularity and catch the attention of the public.
The tragedy of neglecting the ethics, in collecting news items and publishing them while considering only the corporate interests, has gripped the media sector like any other. It would be apt to acknowledge that even the fourth pillar of democracy has been affected by the existent competent capitalist system and that it has lost its credibility in the eyes of the people. The vigilance to preserve and maintain journalistic ethics amid the feverishness to beat the competitors and emerge first, has to be retrieved. At a time when the press itself begins to think that writing praises of the authorities is its duty, and all the necessary environment is being created in haste to take the media into that catastrophic condition, the lost faith in the press should be re-established in order to preserve the liberty to voice for those who have been denied justice.