‘Media is diverting attention & dividing people’

The Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory body for “preserving the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies”, has a new chairman: Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s weekly programme Devil’s Advocate, Justice Katju, known for his “mayhem, humour and quotability” in the courtroom and his long, ponderous newspaper articles, lets loose:

Karan Thapar: In a recent interaction with newspaper and TV editors, you said the media have become irresponsible and wayward, and that the time has come when some introspection is required. Are you disappointed with the media?

Justice Katju: Very disappointed with the media. I have a poor opinion about the media. I mean this. They should be working for the interests of the people. But they are not working for the interests of the people and sometimes, politically, they are working in an anti-people manner.

You have said one of the basic tasks of the media is to provide truthful and objective information to form rational opinions. Is that not happening altogether or is it not happening sufficiently?

You must first understand the historical context. India is passing through a transitional period in our history. Transition from a feudal-agricultural to a modern-industrial society. This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.

Is that not happening in India?

No. Just the reverse….

Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.

You began by saying that you had a very low opinion of the media, that you were deeply dispapointed. I get the impression you don’t think very much of the media at all?

There are some very respected journalists…. General rut is very, very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have any knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.

So the media is in effect is letting down India.

Yes, absolutely. Because media is very important in this transitional period. The media deals with ideas, it is not an ordinary business, dealing in commodities. Therefore, people need modern scientific ideas. And that’s not happening.

View the full video: ‘Media deliberately dividing people’

Also read: What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

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How the BJP raised witchcraft to statecraft

The only place black magic works is in your mind

How Big B has pushed India to regressive, new low

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

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29 Responses to “‘Media is diverting attention & dividing people’”

  1. Nanjundaswamy.S Says:

    Justice Markandey Katju has expressed a free and frank opinion. I am also inclined to agree with him fully. Now a days all news items have become breaking news and sensational.There appears to be no sense in reporters.

  2. Srinivas Alavilli Says:

    Whoa!! Justice Markandey Katju says it like it is! Hope he gets to do something productive in PCI – do something about “paid news” Sir!

  3. Rastrakoota Says:

    Super commentary on the state of the media by the Justice! Feel so very True!

  4. the colonel Says:

    ask any fauji and he’ll tell you total and utter dishonesty in everything reported by the media.

    whether state or private sponsered.

  5. voyeur Says:

    I want to be this man when I grow up

  6. M Says:

    Agreed. Media is playing spoil sports with minds of the people. But who gave the MATERIAL for the media spoil.

  7. RowdyRanga Says:

    So true about astrology…

  8. Anonymous Guy Says:

    What else does the honorable judge expect?

    We are at best mediocre in all walks of life. At worst we are terrible.

    When we don’t expect our athletes to win Olympic gold medals, our scientists to make any breakthroughs, our bureaucrats and politicians to have a vision, our retired justices to push for a system to provide social justice to the majority; how can we expect journalists to emulate their European counterparts and be knowledgeable at literature, philosophy and political science?

    Why is the honorable justice expecting excellence from Indian journalists? It is not in our nature.

  9. Jay Says:

    Agree with him 100 % ! Truer words have never been spoken about the pethetic media in our country!!

  10. Satya Says:

    Excellent comments. But the Commission should act now.

  11. karihaida Says:

    @AG,
    Why this switch to ‘European counterparts’ from Amreekan? ;)

  12. Vinay Says:

    Anonymous Guy:

    If you think “European counterparts” are highly impartial, unbiased, and do excellent research, you couldn’t be more wrong.

    The kind of biased, nasty and terrible reporting in Brit media like the Guardian has to be see to be believed.

    But then, with many Indians, since it is a product of the White man, it has to be better than any Indian stuff, hence unquestionable.

  13. Gaampa Says:

    When will Katju monitor churumuri? He may close the blog down !!!!! Ha ha ha

  14. Anonymous guy Says:

    KH,

    Let me cut and paste from top of this page:

    “This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.”
    “Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did.”

    I didnt say that, the judge did (do you read only the comments?).

    Vinay,

    I agree with what the judge is saying – Indian media does not compare to the European media on any count. At best can try to copy them. which is what we have mostly done – starting with the use of printing presses and the idea of printed publications.

    Only surprised at why he seems to think the Indian media should be held to the standards of European media, when we dont match up in most other fields.

  15. Faldo Says:

    Justice Katju makes excellent points. It is true that a large section of the media pays more attention to frivolous issues, promotes irrational beliefs, blurs the lines between paid and real news and encourages divisive thought.
    The only jarring note in his interview was his mention of the PM, the leader of opposition and the I&B Minister as people who supported his viewpoint to bring in changes in the law.As long as he or others in influential positions want the media to introspect, it is fine. However, if people in power use this as an excuse to make the media fall in line, hide inconvenient facts or worse, threaten them into toeing the establishment’s viewpoint then that should not be encouraged. Many actions that are well meaning to begin with can end up as draconian measures. The lessons of the Emergency should not be forgotten in a hurry.

  16. maisuru Says:

    The Editors Guild has expressed anguish over how Justice Katju had stonewalled all attempts by it to have a dialogue with him, even as he continues to publicly express tendentious and offensive views. !!!!!!

  17. kris Says:

    A notice, an early warning, to churumuri and his friends in the media!

    In addition to demanding better educated journalists, we should have a mechanism to expose hidden agenda of some (many?)journalists – for example, propping up people belonging to a particular caste, etc…

  18. karihaida Says:

    @AG,
    ofcourse I didn’t read the article :) When the headline says ‘media is diverting attention and dividing people’, the article is full of it. The media does what it does because that is what the people want. Whether it is Indian, European, American, African.. doesn’t matter, most of them are the same. Some may be very slick and polished and others not so. Take for example this very blog ;)

  19. Anonymous guy Says:

    KH,

    You should read the article before BS’ing.

  20. FirstReality Says:

    People like Karihaida are the real ones who really feel inferior to “western values and white men” as they put it. It shows up every time they refuse to see things which the west has got right and we have completely failed to even to emulate.

  21. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    I have a low opinion of the Indian Judiciary.

  22. K.Balasubrahmanyan Says:

    I tend to agree even if it offends media people.who ever has heard of ads between news reports? our tv friends would any thing to make money or increase their TRP at any cost. This is not desirable.No wonder so many channels have mushroomed due to profit motive and not creation. of awareness amongst people . bala

  23. karihaida Says:

    @AG,
    Folks like you are the media’s darling. Enjoy.. and thanks for the sermon.

    @FirstReality,
    The Western media got it right? What? Iraq wars, Multi-trillion bailouts ring a bell Sir? They are the original masters of diverting attention and dividing opinion.
    But why bother with these pesky issues..

  24. Satya Says:

    Electronic media values only three – A,B & C. – A=Astrology, B=Bollywood and C=Cricket.

  25. Vinay Says:

    FirstReality and AG:

    The Western media is in no way worth emulating. Biased reporting, paid news, shoddy reporting, repeating cliches, sensationalism – all these are things even the Western media does.

  26. FirstReality Says:

    KH and Vinay – Whether western media “got it right” depends on what is your worldview. Whether wars and wall street is right or wrong depends on where do you stand ideologically.

    If you take the case of American media (I must admit I do not follow European media as much), even if you take the extremely opinionated media houses like Fox or MSNBC, all you can say is you do not subscribe to their view. But the scale is balanced. For every Glenn Beck and Bill O’reilly you have a Keith Olberman and Bill Maher. And you have a bunch of people in the middle like lame CNN BBC guys.

    That’s what is needed. You do not need media you to say Iraq war is right or bailout is wrong. or you do not need the media of Singapore or Hongkong kind which says nothing about pretty much anything to avoid “dividing people”. You need strong debates on both sides. What is sickening about our media is that it is dumb. Look at the best we have got in TV – Sagarika Ghosh and Pranav Roy and Rajdeep? Ah, sucks.

    My main complaint about Indian media is it’s disgustingly dumb. Media by definition should divide the opinion and create a tumultuous ecosystem in the society. and not necessarily to take an absolute moral position on issues.

    Having said that I tend to agree with AG that what’s the big deal about it when we have got rest of everything pretty much screwed up starting from ordinary public to politicians and not to forget Judiciary which is probably the worst of all.

  27. karihaida Says:

    @FirstReality,
    Agree that everybody should have their own dumb shill and that is why I call for a national TV channel of the Pioneer/Saamna types.. But then people call me a cheddi :)

  28. damagedbrain Says:

    the reference to European media is not made in today’s context – the justice is referencing to the time when Europe went through revolution.

    The western media is worse than Indian media in current times – which the west can afford because they’re developed and whether they perpetuate lies for the sake of politicians or businessmen – the impact on their own people is minimal.

    Indian media is trying to emulate their western counterparts which is not even worth emulating. Completely subscribe to the justice’s view.

  29. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Both the judiciary and the media are no better than the politicians who rule us.

    I still cannot believe that a high court judge would consider telling a wife beater to be a good boy and ask the wife to forgive him and live happily ever after.

    I cannot believe that a high court judge would act like an advocate for namma Karnataka’s first family and punish somebody for filing a PIL case.

    Where are all the editorials decrying these shameful situations?

    What’s become of the charges filed against a former chief justice of Karnataka High Court who happily lived out his last year as a judge in a Himalayan state?

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