Patna : Noted social activists and journalists have decried the role of media in general and during the three-day Bihar Diwas celebrations in particular. They questioned as to how the media can ignore some very important news at the cost of the government-sponsored function, in which such a huge amount of money was spent.
Taking part in a discussion on “Changing Relationship Between Media and Power” organized by the Bihar Press Freedom Movement at Patna Book Fair on Saturday evening noted journalist and BBC’s Bihar correspondent, Manikant Thakur, asked as to why is media silent on the Income Tax raids on the business and residential premises of a very close aide of chief minister Nitish Kumar. While the same media would highlight the opening of school in the house of confiscated property of any officer why nobody is today questioning from where had Vinay Kumar Sinha amassed Rs 4.5 crore and purchased 51 flats.
Sinha has been the treasurer of the Samata Party and Janata Dal (United) for the last 16 years and Nitish Kumar, before becoming the chief minister of Bihar, used to stay at one of his house which too was raided on March 21-22.
Manikant wondered as to what had happened to media houses in Bihar. They are busy highlighting the Bihar Diwas festival and totally ignoring the other issues and hardship related to the common men and women.
Pointing towards the state-sponsored extravaganza he said he is not justifying what had happened in the past, but he is just asking what would have been the media’s response if the same thing would have happened seven years back.
Speaking on the occasion, Nirala, of Tehelka (Hindi) asked as to why the media has not given coverage to the farmers of Nabinagar who have been sitting on dharna for the last 22 days on the spot where power plant is to come up at Nabinagar in Aurangabad district. Among other things they are demanding suitable compensation for the land acquired for the plant. He regretted that the media had seriously let down the society.
Anil Prakash, social activist and one-time close associate of Nitish Kumar lamented as to how a man who had gone to jail during Emergency and received lathi blows in 1983 while opposing the Press Bill had now imposed an undeclared censorship. Anil Prakash said he had been conveying this question to chief minister through friends but Nitish is not paying any heed. He narrated how a senior Editor “personally approached me with a request to convey to Nitish Kumar that in the long run such Press censorship would prove counterproductive and he would not be able to know the shortcomings of his own government.”
He said how maize crop in two lakh acres were destroyed a couple of years back due to seed-testing, yet the media ignored the news. He personally asked the mediapersons to visit the site of the dam on river Bagmati and see the havoc caused by it. More than 75 per cent of cattle have perished.
The Janata Dal (United) Rajya Sabha MP, Ali Anwar, arrived at the function, while Anil Prakash was speaking. The social activist greeted his old friend from the world of journalism. But sensing that he had landed in some strange place, Ali Anwar, soon left the venue.
Another activist Ashok Yadav said as to how the media, both print and electronic, covered the news of the Kosi flood of 2008. The shots would show rising water of the river and the cattle swept away by the water but hardly any mention was made about the number of people who died. He said Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen argues that there would be no starvation death in democracy because the media is free. But what is happening in the Kosi belt in democratic Bihar. Where is the media when people are starving, he asked.
Noted Hindi writer Alok Dhanwa, who was presiding over the discussion, said that he had always been stating that those who get overwhelming majority had the tendency to become autocrat and tyrant. He said those working in the media are youngsters of the same society, yet they are helpless and become victim of the onslaught of the global capitalism, which is playing havoc with the people of India.
Incidentally, the role of media came under scrutiny one way or the other in at least three discussions held in Patna Book Fair. While on the occasion of the release of Ashutosh’s (of IBN-7) book on Anna Hazare on March 18 the role of media was highlighted by the author and Editor-in-chief of Hindustan, Shashi Shekar, yet questions were raised by the people over the role the same media is playing in Bihar. The speakers appeared to be on the backfoot on this count.
On March 22, while taking part in the function organized by Sunita Tripathi of monthly Gaon Samaj, all the speakers came down heavily on the Press censorship in the media. Apart from Alok Dhanwa and Anil Prakash senior journalist, Anand S T Das of Asian Age, also spoke on that occasion.
On the same day the All India Students’ Association organized a seminar on the role of media in IMA Hall. Apart from others Dipankar Bhattacharya, the CPI ML general secretary, and Ajay Kumar of BiharTimes spoke on the occasion.
On March 24 discussion in Book Fair once again the role of media and the autocratic way of the government have been questioned. This programme was conducted by Hindi scribe and reporter of Tehelka magazine, Irshad-ul-Haque. Courtesy : Bihar Times