Journalist P Sainath described the media today as unrepresentative, exclusionist and “playing a narrow role”, while delivering the Dr Shanthinath Desai Memorial Endowment Lecture at Karnataka’s Kuvempu University on April 1.
, Sainath’s lecture was on “Journalism in India: Where We are 200 Years On”.
During the freedom struggle, the “tiny Indian media played a significant role...but today's strong media is playing a narrow role,” said Sainath, who is also the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India. “At least 90 percent of the media is there to defend every move of the government.”
Referring to Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s arrest for his “courageous journalism”, Sainath also referenced the impact of the work by the likes of B R Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
“India has produced Dalit presidents, judges, chief justice and one deputy prime minister also. But it would be difficult to find Dalits, Adivasis in today's Indian newsrooms,” he said. “There were hardly any dark-skinned people in the visual media.”
He said that during the Emergency, the media “crawled when it was asked to bend, but now there is no need to even ask it”. However, Sainath praised small media platforms in Indian languages for doing a good job. He also of corporate influence on the media, and growing cases of journalists being arrested for doing their jobs.
Soon after the pandemic began, Sainath had spoken to Newslaundry about similar issues, including the vanishing labour beat in India. “When you do not have a labour correspondent and you do not have a farming correspondent,” he said, “[you] are making the statement that 75 percent of the population does not matter.” .