Jagendra Singh or the murder of Journalism

Jagendra Singh or the murder of Journalism

‘The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism’ said Carl Bernstein about the American media but it holds just as true for the Indian media. Rewind to the happenings of the last few days and you will see how lack of information and contempt for the truth has put the last nail in the coffin of the Indian mainstream media.

Carl Bernstein News died long ago. What we see in the guise of news today is celebrated anchors peddling prejudiced opinion and furthering political agendas, while the media owners look to cash in on the TRPs of such motivated programming. News as we knew it – plain and simple had died – albeit a silent death decades ago. It was like slow poison that had been injected into the media over the several years and so, when the death happened, nobody really knew when.

Fake faces of Indian celeb journos unmasked

However, this last nail in the Indian media’s coffin was hammered in when the death of Jagendra Singh, the journalist from UP came to light.  The deceased scribe used to run a Facebook page called Shahjahanpur Samachar, where he wrote among other things, about alleged cases of corruption and illegal mining by Minister for Backward Classes Welfare Ram Murti Singh Verma. On 1 June when Jagendra in his Facebook post wrote about Rinku Yadav’s MLC ticket being sabotaged by Ram Murti Verma, he was set on fire the very day.

And 1 June is the day when the partisan and the fake faces of Indian celeb journos and their cosmetic concern for issues came alive in their full naked glory.

Why do I say this? Note the date of this attack. It is 1 June 2015. And when do we hear of it? 9 June 2015, after he succumbed to his burn injuries on June 8. Here is a brutal attack on a journalist and silencing forever his freedom of expression in the most gruesome manner and yet, till his death a week later, there is not a whimper in the media. A journalist set on fire is not news enough? Is this something the news fraternity would NOT have known before 9 June? Did it take his death to give them a lead that, yes there’s this important story? Or did he have to die for our media to sit up and take note?

I am Charlie, not Jagendra

A church is vandalised and the Christians of India unite in saying they feel unsafe, a Muslim is denied a home and Modi’s India gets tarnished, a group in IIT is banned and FOE is under attack…all these are examples of media-manufactured news because in each of these supposed stories, untruths were written all over. In fact, the media has become so adept in peddling lies and pushing agendas that when an actual, real and ghastly story happened to a person from their own fraternity, they bypassed it with brazen arrogance.

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Jagendra Singh died. A fellow scribe died a horrible death (perhaps a timely intervention may have saved him) and our celeb journos were conspicuous by their silence. There was no outrage on Twitter. None of the journalists, who when it was Charlie Hebdo changed their DPs and said ‘I am Charlie,’ even reacted. None of them wrote columns as they did for Charlie when it came to Jagendra.

The reason for my desolation is not unfounded. I waited patiently to see how our MSM journos react. The ones who instantly defend Tejpal, are silent on Pachauri, or pour bile on Modi or ridicule him at any given instance, had been observing deathly silence when it came to Jagendra. I waited for our journalists to wear black bands registering their protests. I waited for them to blacken their DPs to show solidarity with their own fraternity. I waited for them to register a mass protest against the gruesome death of their fellow journalist. Though not a believer in candle marches, I waited for our ‘sensitive journalists’ who worry about terrorists’ human rights, to go to Jagendra’s humble abode and light candles there and show his family some sympathy.

Did any of this happen? No. All we got was this banal inanity from the Press Council of India Chairman C K Prasad, who said on 10 June: ‘The murder of a journalist at Shahjehanpur in UP is certainly an attack on the freedom of the press and as such it should be treated seriously. The state government should appoint a Special Investigative Team consisting of officers of impeccable character and track record to get to the truth of the matter as it allegedly involves a minister of the state Cabinet.’

Sensationalism – the guiding tenet of journalism

So do celeb journalists really care – about news or about journalism or other ordinary journalists? Which makes me wonder – what if this journalist had hailed from Lutyens Delhi or from the minority community? What would the media reactions then be like?

The answer is clear as daylight. Sensationalism, and causing rifts where there are none has become the guiding tenet of mainstream journalism today. So while news about a Misbah Qadri’s fake housing problem and Zeeshan’s fake job denial will get lots of air time courtesy our celeb journalists, a courageous scribe, who actually took on the might of corrupt politicians through his humble Facebook page and got murdered in cold blood begets at first a deathly silence and then as an afterthought, delayed tributes and lip service TV programmes on his deathbed confession.

The celeb journalists who run prime time TV shows have shown us that their loyalty lies with TRPs and political agendas, not with news. The very fraternity which runs stories on Bollywood actors dying alone let this journalist down by letting him die alone with nary support let alone moral outrage.

From his deathbed, Jagendra would have hoped that his statement would help bring accused to book. But looking at the way our media has reacted I can only pray that his death does not go in vain. Not the just stories he was pursuing, I pray his story too lives on—for the future of honest journalism.

Bob WoodwardWhile I began with Bernstein let me end with Bob Woodward’s words–which every aspiring journalist must read:

‘There are people who take rumors and embellish them in a way that can be devastating. And this pollution has to be eradicated by people in our business as best we can.’

While the present state in the media leaves me with no hope of their redemption, I have hope in the future of young minds who may read this and become true journalists by eradicating the pollution that Bob Woodward is speaking about. The ones in Indian media today have polluted news and murdered journalism long ago.


The author is a commentator on current affairs.