Where have all the bravehearts gone?
The primary role of news media is to give information. The role of good investigative journalists is to investigate and present the truth however unpleasant to governments and powerful institutions. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s main public service broadcaster did a marvellous job towards this last week by presenting ‘Digging into Adani’ on their weekly Four Corners investigative documentary programme.
Gautam Adani, a billionaire industrialist, is a controversial name in India. His rise to wealth and power is alleged to have coincided with the rise in power of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat state and now the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. The environmental track record of his Adani Group and his financial arrangements have been questioned. His bid to build Australia’s biggest coalmining site – the Carmichael project – in Queensland has led to huge protests in the country for environmental reasons. The mine would be built on land of the country’s indigenous people and, according to environmentalists, threaten the wellbeing of the Great Barrier Reef.
When the Four Corners team went to investigate Adani in India they were questioned for hours by the crime branch of police, their cameras shut down and footage deleted. The promo of the programme says, ‘This investigation examines whether, in the rush to secure jobs and shore up the mining industry, Australian politicians have failed to properly scrutinise the company that’s now hoping to receive a taxpayer funded loan of up to $1 billion for its project.’
This itself would be news in normal circumstances. ABC went ahead and broadcast the programme – exactly what a public broadcaster ought to do. It was reported in Australian media, people watched it and continued their protest.
Big story? Isn’t this the stuff the Indian media would love to show and talk about? Social media in India was active with discussions about the programme, sharing it and commenting. Mainstream media (MSM), particularly the television news channels, looked the other way. ‘Digging into Adani’ was not a news item, nor was it discussed in any way by the majority of channels. Instead they discussed, interviewed, shouted and screamed about a spat between two Bollywood movie stars. Killing a story by ignoring it would have worked but for social media. Most mainstream newspapers also chose to ignore the story.
Why? Are they in favour of crony capitalism? Afraid of backlash from Adani and the Indian government? The industrialist accompanies the Prime Minister on his foreign tours. Maybe their news sense has gone awry? Yes, there appears to be a journalistic death wish among the MSMs in India. Big stories, if investigative and critical of government, the ruling party and its allies, are not touched upon or pushed down to insignificance. Trivia and manufactured debate reign supreme while most channels appear to have become propaganda tools. Not a good sign for a vibrant democracy or media. Where have the bravehearts of Indian media gone?