Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Independent Media in India: Role of as voice of marginalized sections

Free media is important, everyone acknowledges. But it's difficult to be 'free' as setting up and running a media house requires moolah.

And, there is no surety of returns. In India, there is constant debate over fairness of media, lately.

Questions are raised on credibility of TV channels [and newspapers] who now a days take sides openly--either due to the ideological slant of the owners, their interests or because of funding source.

The voice of the poor and marginalised sections is heard less as 'big media' mostly focuses on issues that bring 'eyeballs', not 'serious or depressing' stories. Rural India, backward groups, minorities and many other sections of the society are not adequately reflected in reporting.

If in the year 2017, we are still talking about media not focusing on entire sections of the society, it can be imagined what was the situation a decade ago. Just think about it, when there were no 'Catch' or 'Scroll', no 'FirstPost' or Quint.

Besides, there was no social media proliferation, then. Today, anyone can write a Facebook post that goes viral or puts his own video on YouTube or use WhatsApp to broadcast certain content and make it go viral.

Today, portals give space to news and also to views. But there was a period when newspapers even ignored letters to editors. There was no way to put your voice across, if papers or channels were not willing to air it.

Does everyone remember the times though it is no too long ago. For Muslim issues, there were just Urdu papers or few blogs. Sometime even politicians were wary of taking up cause of the victims--such was the situation.

REMARKABLE ROLE: TCN'S CONTRIBUTION NEEDS TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED's role has been significant and needs to be recognised. I remember very well, how, issues concerning highhandedness of police or atrocities on weaker sections that were not carried by mainstream papers, came to public domain due to the portal.

That it appointed reporters in different cities and made them chase stories, focus on stories neglected by mainstream media and did series of special stories on important issues, is something that is really significant.

Over the years, I remember the news website doing excellent journalism. In the later part of the first decade [2006-2010], there were innumerable cases of Muslims arrested on false charges and their lives were ruined. The police version was believed immediately after arrests and no questions were asked.

Once in a while, an Indian Express would do a story, abut for most of the time, there was silence. No effort was made or interest shown to bring to us the voice of the other side. Many stories were suppressed as no one was willing to do them.

TCN's biggest achievement is that it broke this unwritten media code. Its series on torture of youths implicated in UAPA in Madhya Pradesh or indiscriminate arrests of Muslim youths in Uttar Pradesh, brought the plight of victims and police excesses to national media.

Also, it was not in complaining mode all the time, as it happens when media that focuses on minorities. Positive stories and success stories were carried on the website. It exposed politicians and mainstream media was forced to take notice.


I have never met any of the team members behind, except, two reporters who worked for it. But I have been following it since its beginning.

Personally, as a journalist and as a reader, I feel that the website has made an outstanding contribution. It was after TCN, that many other 'Muslim-centric' sites came up. Meanwhile, TCN has grown too. Now it is bilingual and more diverse.

It covers social issues apart from focusing on tribals, dalits, other weaker sections. Of course, it covers politics and comes up with analyses too. Some of the reporters who worked for TCN in the past, are now well-known journalists and writers.

And yes, another point. Urdu newspapers [or even some English periodicals-weeklies] run by Muslims were excessively Muslim-centric and their reporting was reduced to covering Waqf Board or Urdu Academy, Muslim politics and issues concerning just Muslims.

This hurt the journalists working in these groups, as they couldn't expand their horizons. Over the years, many of these reporters thought journalism was just about the particular beat or interacting with politicians.

TCN went much beyond that and its reporters broke stories, which is essential for any journalist. Further, the stories had impact. One has to work hard on the ground, get information, dig through reports, cultivate sources in order to get exclusives.

Many TCN reports came up with interesting and insightful stories. Generally, we recall work of people in the distant past and ignore the hard work that is going on around us. I wanted to write this post for a long time. TCN team's efforts must be recognised and appreciated.

I feel credit is due to for its role as an independent media organisation. It has played a major role as an institution of non-profit journalism. Thank you Kashif sahab. The team that runs it and those who support it, deserve a salute.