As a filmmaker, teacher and positive change agent, I am interested in the fascinating true news of people’s lives as well as their experiences, especially in this quickly changing world. My work captures present-in-the-making so we can learn from it in the future. Since 2001, I have a keen observer of the mainstream media (MSM) for public consumption in our country, India.
Anyone who has grown up in India and studied our Constitution has been introduced to one of the most fundamental concepts of our Democracy—our “Freedom of speech.” It is often referred to as “the Fourth Estate/pillar,” because it positions the role of the media alongside the three other pillars, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The value of the Fourth pillar cannot be overstated because the “watchdog” role of the press has been critical to the functioning of our Indian democracy. In truth it has profoundly influenced not just our history but the very destiny of our country.
The history of Indian journalism was part of my basic training and we were taught to honour and defend the code of journalism: “Always check your sources, check your facts, and interview multiple people. Leave no stone unturned in pursuit of the truth.” As we are aware, today the mainstream media functions as a propaganda machine of the government and for the selected rich. We were also taught about the danger of “yellow” journalism, a term used to describe newspapers that present little or no legitimate news but seek an audience through misleading headlines, sensationalising, and ultimately tampering with the truth just to increase sales.
Journalism has become one of the most dangerous professions around the globe.
Journalists in pursuit of the truth are regularly persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed. Daniel Pearl who worked for The Wall Street Journal was beheaded in 2002 in Pakistan while searching for the truth about terrorism, and Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, and journalist for The Washington Post, was assassinated and dismembered by agents of the Saudi government in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The list of journalists who have sacrificed their lives to seek out the truth is long and bloody! Let me not mention the list from India.
The role and importance of incorruptible journalism was underscored in many countries, including America. “The Pentagon Papers,” containing a history of the U.S. role in Indo-china, were secretly turned over to The New York Times in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, (a senior research associate from the Centre for International Studies at MIT). The publication of the Pentagon Papers in the press clearly indicated that the American Government had been lying to the American people about the effectiveness of the war in Vietnam. It was a watershed moment in American journalism. Consider the Tiananmen Square massacre that took place in Beijing, China in 1989, when students massed together to protest the cruelty of the communist regime. Not only did the Chinese government soft sucking the uprising, they also forcefully silenced all the news about it.
It’s hard to discuss these issues publicly or even privately. Civil discourse is now an “endangered” form of communication. We are not being told the whole truth, but that the story we are being fed is fabricated and designed deliberately to convince us to accept the official narrative.