Freedom of Speech & Democracy  

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right here but speaking out the truth itself could often land one in trouble, be it from the establishment or from the judiciary or even the local thugs. Both individuals and the media are at the receiving end of such aggressive responses. This is not peculiar to the present scene but has been the case in the past too. The result is a pliant media, often not having the courage to rub the establishment the wrong way. The foreign media is different as is proven again now via the Rupert Murdoch establishment, which said the “Modi government led India into a viral apocalypse”.

With muscle-flexing by those in power, on the one side, and allurements too in the form mostly of crumbs, on the other, the fourth estate here is increasingly avoiding any sharp criticism of the establishment. The present Covid19 scenario is the latest instance even as a critical situation is staring the nation in the face. Starting with Bihar and later with a set of five assemblies up for polls, the election campaigns were conducted like a jamboree and everyone including the media enjoyed the high spirits around. It was clear to the eye that the social distancing norm was flouted with gay abandon, apart from the failure of many at such events to even wear the face mask. Top guns like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home minister Amit Shah led such mega shows and the local administrations meekly looked the other way in these Covid-times. So too with the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand!

It was precisely these instances that The Australian – a newspaper stated openly. Truth must be stated and stated loudly. That this did not happen from the side of the Indian media is what had encouraged those in power to take liberties and stretch things to ludicrous and dangerous limits during the course of the election campaign.

This is not to ignore the fact that the BJP-led Government did impose one of the biggest lockdowns in the world in the first phase of Covid. This had severe repercussions but that’s another story. The lockdown was followed by several tough measures that helped control the spread. But with the coming of the second, more virulent wave things have gone horribly wrong. The nation is gasping for oxygen even as India reaches a critical stage requiring urgent replenishment from different friendly countries. Had there been adequate preparations based on lessons from the UK and elsewhere, several deaths that took place in recent days could have been avoided.

The global media acts as a mirror to what is happening in India and what is being missed by the media here. They cannot be told to mind their own business.

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