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National media doesn’t portray accurate picture of people’s problems: Varadarajan

Srinagar, Oct 18: Dubbing the national media as “beasts”, prominent journalist, Siddharth Varadarajan on Thursday said its practices bear little resemblance to “professional journalism”.
Paying tributes to celebrated writer, journalist, and parliamentarian, Shamim Ahmad Shamim, at an event held to release the 12th issue of ‘Aaina Numa’, he said, “The major sections of media are akin to animals, as they don’t portray accurate picture of problems confronting people.”
He said many internal and external causes were responsible for the “negative trends” in journalism across India, which he said, was being reflected in Kashmir as well.
“The most common challenge identified by all South Asian journalists is the problem of journalists self-censoring themselves. There is a direct pressure by the editors and proprietors on what to publish in papers and play on the channels,” said Varadarajan, who is the founder of National news portal The Wire.
“Such decisions on what to cover are taken in direct violation of the journalistic principles. Consequently, the issues of major importance are not highlighted, while the things of little importance get the coverage.”
The second challenge, he said, was the misuse of several laws. “You have countless examples where people were charged with sedition or booked under IT Law just for posting something online. Mere speech cannot be characterized as sedition,” he said.
“The primary misuse of law of defamation is another tool to control the freedom of speech.”
Among the several challenges, the former editor Hindu, also shed light on the misuse of agencies and financial pressures that media companies often succumb to.
“There is external pressure from the corporate houses and non-state actors which results in a serious attack on media freedom. Unfortunately, the issue is not taken with utmost seriousness by the media fraternity,” rued Varadarajan.
The noted journalist also pointed out the harsher restrictions faced by the Kashmir-based journalists compared to their national counterparts.
“The restrictions here are too many. The ease with which internet is snapped on and off shows how the press freedom and popular moments are controlled.”
He said many sections of media also engage in the vilification and labelling of journalists.
“We have a recent example of Shujaat Bukhaari’s assassination. His outspokenness made him a soft target in the eyes of several media channels in both India and Pakistan,” he said.
Varadarajan stressed on the need of developing a broader vision wherein the views and perspectives of journalists are respected.
Referring to the recent Metoo movement, he urged the government to ensure internal complaints committee was put in place in every department.
“The volume of the harassment stories that are coming need to be addressed at the earliest. Metoo movement is a reminder that workplaces should free of harassment. The workspaces should nurture the creativity of women journalists so that Indian journalism becomes more ethical and feistier,” he said.