Media must self-regulate, says Raghav Chadha at Literati

The “Confluence and influence of politics and media” was the subject of an animated discussion on the opening day of the 10th edition of Chandigarh Literary Society’s annual literature festival, Literati, at the Lake Club here on Saturday.

Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab and senior AAP leader Raghav Chadha, journalist, author and political analyst Rasheed Kidwai, and Hindustan Times executive editor Ramesh Vinayak dwelled on the love-hate relationship between the media and political class, crisis of credibility in the Fourth Estate and the impact of social media on traditional media.

Asserting that self-regulation was the need of the hour for media outlets that put out content that could flare up tensions and divide people on communal lines, Chadha said, “News has been replaced by noise, journalism has become jingoism and sense has been replaced by sensationalism. It is all a game of TRP and attempts by powers that be to deepen the fault lines in our country.”

Alleging that the government with “brute majority at the Centre” was controlling the levers of news dissemination, the AAP leader said, “When Covid was at its peak, our news channels were made to digress from the issue at hand and dwell on the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. These days news is being presented not to inform, but from an entertainment standpoint.”

Author-journalist Kidwai, however, said it was unfair to heap the entire blame on media, “Media is not a change agent and it perpetuates existing belief systems. Media alone cannot be blamed for perpetuating hatred, as lots of political, religious and spiritual leaders and other changemakers such as authors are legitimizing it. The public is not exercising the remote, there is TRP, advertisement and an entire ecosystem that is supporting it.”

He also pointed out that society at large was failing to draw a distinction between the Indian state and government. “Our loyalty to the nation is absolute, but journalists have the right to criticize the government of the day, both at the Center and in states, which unfortunately is seen as dissent,” Kidwai said.

Asked by Vinayak whether political parties were using social media to amplify their message as opposed to engaging in a two-way communication to evade scrutiny, Chadha said, “Politicians must engage with media, and must be open to scrutiny and questions. Leaders at all levels must open themselves to questions.”

On the “crisis of credibility” in media, Chadha said, “A handful of journalists have brought a bad name to the media industry, as they have become propagandists of the powers-that-be. Instead of questioning the government on issues of price rise, inflation, unemployment and the Indo-China clash, questions are being put to the opposition.”

Kidwai said imposing fines on channels that spread fake news could act as a check against propaganda and fake news.

Don’t read books, interrogate them: Gurcharan Das

A “Chandigarh boy” at heart, India Unbound author Gurcharan Das drew a distinction between making a living and making a life in his keynote address. “Not all of us are Mozart, who know our purpose in life. Most of us stumble on it,” he said.

“So how can one make a life? By not reading books, but interrogating them,” said Das, adding, “The margins of my books are full red markings. The internet has democratized the world, you need not go to Harvard, but can interrogate books anywhere,” he said.

“And how does one know they have found their purpose? When I write, my self disappears and time gets distorted. This is when one knows,” the author said.

A saga of sufism

Later, eminent Punjabi poet Surjit Patar, writer Rana Safvi, Affan Yesvi, a descendent of Sufi saint Khawaja Ahmad Yaswawi, and Peerzada Syed Altamash Nizami, a descendent of Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya, New Delhi, discussed the Sufi legacy of India.

“Sufism first came to India through undivided Punjab. Even the Bhakti movement reached the north from south India about that time and the twain met here. Both had the same message, a direct experience of the divine. There was a lot of interaction between the yogis and the Sufis,” said Safvi.

Speaking of Sufism, Patar said, “Music is not just an art but a philosophy that humanity is one.”

Divya Abeerah’s nazams captured in the anthology Sukoon-e-Abeerah, and Sonika Sethi’s book From the Sidewalks of Life were also released at the event.

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