Poison ivy: common multimedia content
Strident and complicit media – important sections of it – joined the chorus to denounce, if not demonize, India’s largest minority community
Posted 06.09.21, 02:12 AM
The concern expressed by a chamber of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India about the community content broadcast by some media deserves careful soul-searching. The Supreme Judiciary was also scathing about the lack of regulation for social media which, the judiciary rightly pointed out, colludes with the powers that be and serves as the source of a confrontational and toxic agenda. India, a secular republic, is frowned upon by these institutions. The context of the Supreme Court’s outrage must also be clarified. The wise judges were responding to a petition from Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind seeking an injunction against malicious segments of the Fourth Estate who attributed the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to a religious function organized by the Tablighi Jamaat last year. A strident and complicit media – important sections of it – had joined the chorus in denouncing, even demonizing, India’s largest minority community. The medieval witch hunt during a public health crisis was both unprecedented and morally untenable.
The points raised by the Supreme Court need to be explored further. Unregulated social media platforms can, indeed, be a threat. Worryingly, in response, the Center appears poised to smear every digital entity with its brush of bullying – the 2021 Information Technology Rules (Intermediate Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) have been blamed violation of media freedom. In addition, regulation may not be an effective deterrent at every opportunity. Several TV stations – they are said to be better regulated than social media entities – have been part of this frightening smear campaign against Muslims. The problem – the crisis – is therefore deeper. It indicates the communitarization of the larger atmosphere in which society and the media operate. The state is undoubtedly the source of the contamination. Tragically, an overwhelming number of media in every imaginable form – television, print, digital – has capitulated to state encroachment. The motives can be pecuniary or ideological, or both. The anguish of the Supreme Court must be complemented with a national conversation about the poison sucking of the nation’s body politic. This enterprise must have a genuinely public character, encompassing the media, the state and, above all, the citizens. Collective cleansing – healing – is the need of the hour.