Home News Agenda-driven new-age media polarising public opinion, snuffing out the middle ground –...

Agenda-driven new-age media polarising public opinion, snuffing out the middle ground – Shri Prafulla Ketkar


Samachara Bharati conducted the annual Narada Jayanti event on 30th April 2023 at FTCCI auditorium, Red Hills, Hyderabad.

Dr Gopal Reddy, President Samachara Bharati Cultural Association, welcomed the audience on the occasion of felicitating senior journalists with awards on the auspicious Narada Jayanti celebrated on Vaisakha Bahula Padyami. Author, senior journalist and editor, Organiser, Sri Prafulla Ketkar was the chief guest on the great occasion of Narada Jayanti.

Senior journalist Sri Krantidev Mitra explained the significance of Narada Jayanti. He said Narada was a great Maharshi, scholar, musician and a great disseminator of information.

Senior journalist Sri Rama Viswanathan, who’s now managing Swatantra TV, was presented the Vadlamudi Rammohan Rao Memorial award. Bhandaru Sadasiva Rao Memorial award was presented to senior journalist, Sri Samavedam Janakirama Sarma, he is presently working in PTI. Sri Shyamsundar Varayogi was presented the Samachara Bharati Puraskar; while the Samachara Bharati Yuva Puraskar was presented to journalist Sri Kuntu Mallesam. The family members of the awardees were also invited on the dias to share the memorable moments. All the awardees have responded recounting their journalistic inspiration and experiences, and expressed their gratitude to Samachara Bharati for felicitating them with the prestigious Samachara Bharati awards.

Sri Prafulla Ketkar, author and editor, Organiser in his keynote address stated that our cultural, historic and epic icons like Maharshi Narada have been heavily distorted in the popular lore in recent past. However, that wasn’t always the case. In 1826, ‘Uthanda Marthanda’, a magazine from Calcutta had Maharshi Narada on the cover page, and the issue was dedicated in his honor. Sri KM Munshi’s committee on the occasion of formulating press guidelines in the 1950s, opined that Maharshi Narada was the most appropriate Bharatiya icon for journalism. The cultural symbolism and iconography of Sri Mahalakshmi, Devi Saraswati etc are the same in the entire country. On a lighter note, he said Sanjaya of Mahabharata was a desk person, while Maharshi Narada was a roving reporter.

Sri Ketkar stated that Narada Purana, Narada Bhaktisutras are important texts which have detailed measures for people’s welfare. Communication, and the approach to communication which includes the discernment between truth and untruths, and the appropriate time for communicating the truths, are important principles enunciated by Maharshi Narada. He gave the example of 9/11 in US, where the entire media of all hues and ideologies, followed the instructions of US Federal Security, and didn’t display images of thousands of dead bodies in the aftermath of the terror attack. In total contrast, pakistani terror attack on Mumbai in 2008, was reported live by ‘reputed’ journalists in India, giving away vital security information to the enemies. Responsible journalism, raising appropriate questions are important principles in communication. Asking correct questions to ChatGpt will elicit correct responses in today’s dynamically changing information world. In the changing dynamics, the old gatekeeping, monopoly of news by entrenched media houses is disappearing today.

Popular perception of PM Nehru differs widely to the actual happenings at that time. Press policy, Press Council came up in 1954, however Govt has tried to indirectly control press through advertisements and other incentives with the ever- obliging press. Nehru govt has imposed ‘press censorship’ on two magazines, Organiser and a communist ‘Red cross’, as early as 1949. As Organiser has written extensively on the massively displaced Hindu refugees pouring in from the then East and West Pakistan, Nehru govt imposed press censorship on the grounds that it will disturb social harmony in the country. The then editor Shri KR Malkani fought this unilateral embargo by the Nehru govt. Thus the first official protest for free speech, ‘censor caeser’ was run by Organiser magazine under the leadership of Shri Malkani; Supreme Court too intervened and Nehru govt was forced to step back. He said we all need to read the historical debate between Sri Shyama Prasad Mukherji and PM Nehru on the plight of Hindu refugees. Shri Brijbhushan (printer and publisher) & editor Shri KR Malkani versus Govt of India was the first such legal case fought for freedom of press. It was then that PM Nehru came up with the First amendment imposing restrictions on free speech; today’s political parties, especially Left and Congress parties forgot the entire episode, while they still praise Nehru’s liberal administration. This case infact, became the first turning point. Hence, Press Council’s Committee came up with a set of guidelines recommending self-regulation of the press. Nehru govt and later Indira Gandhi govt used the strategy of huge Govt advertising given to press to manage the press. Later on things took an ugly turn, when the founder-president Sri KR Malkani himself was ousted from Press Council in 1977 by Editors Guild. Press houses became a den for black-marketing practices.

Ideological stances got sharpened in 1990s post Ramjanmabhumi movement, the situation was further compounded by market forces which monopolized media through advertising revenues etc. Soon News became a product, and an investment destination; Breaking News phenomenon started, with huge amounts of false news, without any apologies, rejoinders or corrections. The popular media was thus designed to manipulate the mind of the viewer.

The big digital media in the new millennium, diverted the funds from electronic to digital media, it also ran successful false narratives; two instances suffice to illustrate the power of media houses in running propaganda- Nirbhaya case- ‘India is the rape capital of the world’; and another is ‘India against corruption’ campaign which presented India as the most corrupt country. Another kind of scenario unfolded, especially in the South – media in TN, AP, TS etc have entirely stopped questioning the regional satraps, even in the matters of huge corruption.

Another shift in media is being seen since 2014, several digital platforms were created with opaque financial and administrative systems, with nefarious agendas driven from outside India, and these media houses are running global campaigns against India. Examples can be seen in the way this new digital media has managed to create pressure on govt during the Covid pandemic, to buy Pfizer vaccines from abroad, and they systematically ran down Indian- manufactured vaccines, and also innovative technological platforms like Co-win. Indian govt later got extensive accolades from various countries around the world for supplying most economical Indian vaccines, when they were in dire need.

Earlier in 1990s, media was bent upon creating ‘secular’ and ‘communal’ divisions, now it’s positing and polarizing the divide as ‘modi-bhakts and modi-haters’. The large middle space between these two polarizing positions is vitiated and is fast getting snuffed out. It’s important to study the 2020 US elections to understand the role of algorithms- driven digital media. The false narrative that india is a ‘conglomeration of multiple nationalities’, which got unified as a nation only through Constitution, has been run successfully for decades. This fake narrative completely negates the civilizational entity and innate cultural unity and integrity of India. Therefore, it’s necessary to understand and study the changing dynamics of media, by understanding and applying the principles of Maharshi Narada, to effectively reinstate the nation’s intrinsic values in our forward march to attain the stature of Vishwa-guru.

Sri Praful Ketkar was felicitated by Sri Gopal Reddy and Sri Ayush Nadimpalli. Large number of audience, especially members of media attended the event.