Question the conscience of channel owners and not journalists: Rifat Jawaid on ‘demise of TV journalism’ in India

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Ethics or lack of it became a dominating theme of All India Media Meet at Aligarh Muslim University on Saturday. Organised by the university’s Students’ Union, the event was held at the historic Kennedy Hall.

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Rifat Jawaid with AMU students after the media meet

Speaking at the occasion, the AMU VC, Lt General Zameeruddin Shah rejected the media reports that the environment on the campus was not conducive to female students. He sought to highlight how almost the entire group of volunteers deployed for the annual meet were girls.

General Shah also said that it was time to launch what he termed Sir Syed Movement part II, through which works needed to be done to create state-of-the-art education facilities for Muslims at the primary and secondary level.

Rifat Jawaid inside Kennedy Hal interacting with organisers

Discussing the role of media, Rifat Jawaid, editor-in-chief of Janta Ka Reporter, said that the absence of ethics had become a serious cause of concern for journalists in India. He, however, said that one needed to question the ‘zameer (conscience)’ of channel owners and not journalists working on the ground for the prevailing malaise in the Indian media.

He said, “An overwhelming majority of Indian journalists are honest and would like to report objectively. I should know it because I led a team of over 350 journalists during my time in India Today Group. Recently, a journalist told me how pained he was to see his channel not willing to carry the news of the murder of a Muslim dairy farmer by right-wing terrorists in Rajasthan.

“These journalists are often helpless under the reign of their greedy masters. So you need to question the conscience of channel owners and not journalists.”

In response to a question on whether India’s secular fabric was in danger, Rifat said that students on the campus needed to develop a positive attitude around the political situation in India.

He said, “I don’t agree that just because 30% voters voted for Narendra Modi in 2014, India’s secular credentials had taken a beating. I also don’t buy the argument that Yogi Adityanath’s elevation as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister is a sign of India’s secularism being in danger. Assuming that all 30% voters in 2014 and 40 plus percent voters in 2017 assembly polls voted for Hindutva, even then 70% in 2014 and 60% in UP elections rejected the idea of communalism. That shows India truly remains a secular nation.

“The success of Janta Ka Reporter is another example why we mustn’t worry about India’s secular ethos facing any threats. The rise of Hindutva is a temporary phenomenon and their victory in elections has been a result of poor political alignment by non-BJP parties.”

Rifat recalled how IBN-News18, in its obsession with Abubakar al-Baghdadi, had recently carried a video clip of an innocent Indian boy studying in Saudi Arabia and demonised him by portraying him as a young ISIS chief.

His comments evoked wide appreciation from the audience in the hall.

Indian TV channels have often earned condemnation from the news consuming public for having mortgaged its journalistic ethos in the want of financial benefits from corporate houses and the government. Other channels have simply come out in the open to promote the ideology of hate and bigotry since the BJP under Narendra Modi won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

The event culminated with the university anthem written by Majaz Lakhnavi followed by India’s national anthem Jana Gana Mana.