Mainstream media plays an integral role in shaping our society. They have an undeniable power in determining what information gets your attention, with what intention and why.
Media can sometimes use this power to the public's disadvantage, feeding hungry consumers with misinformation and propaganda, or distracting from important narratives by focusing on ones that serve their interests.
This was seen last week, with the focus in Indian media being disproportionately placed on drug charges laid against Shah Rukh Khan’s son, as opposed to farmers being intentionally run over and killed in Uttar Pradesh.
National media coverage of the farmer’s protests have remained inadequate over the last year, and it is clear that certain stories are given more importance over others, based on the interests of very few people.
For over a year, protests have been ramping up across the nation. Hundreds of people have been killed, and many more have gone missing, but the mainstream media coverage in India does not accurately depict the situation to those at home.
In addition, the stories that do make it to the air are problematic, to say the least.
These protestors are the same people who have been feeding the nation for all of their lives. They are fighting against a government regime that is trying to strip them of their rights, land, and dignity.
Just within the last week, more than four farmers were killed when a car owned by an Indian Minister named Ajay Mishra, ran over a group of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The car was driven by Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, who was arrested the following day.
The situation has not gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves.
Innocent people were deliberately killed by a government official’s son, but obviously, Modi’s government is avoiding covering this.
Giving this situation adequate spotlight in the media would impact the media narrative that has been built over the last year that labels protestors as the problem, in order to steer attention away from the government.
Modi’s media is sometimes referred to as “Godi Media,” which translates to “lapdogs,” because they “sit in the master’s lap, but they don’t bite as much as they yap.” The term was coined by NDTV journalist, Ravish Kumar in regards to the biased reporting of Indian news and media that supports the ruling right-wing NDA government.
They are more likely to focus on a sensationalized story than one that would require them to be held accountable.
There has been extensive coverage of Aryan Khan’s drug chargers, which on the surface, appears to have the country in shambles. Headline after headline points towards this story, with regular updates about the situation every other hour.
While this is happening and while the public is consuming this information, many much more “newsworthy” events are continuing to occur, as protesters demand justice for those who were murdered, and are continuing to protest farming laws.
But how is this all happening? And why?
In a country like Canada, we have the ability and privilege to be able to create independently operated media that is free from government and corporate influence. But in countries like India, the media and the government are intrinsically linked.
In India, the press is not free.
Prime Minister Modi’s government continues to exercise control over the media’s narrative, and goes to far lengths to ensure it stays that way.
In fact, The New York Times recently reported that the Indian government is pressuring advertisers and shutting down channels in an attempt to shape the information that is sent out to its population of 1.3 billion.
Because of the heavy media bias, it’s very rare that underprivileged and marginalized voices in India get the attention that they deserve.
It’s so important that we ask questions about which voices are being left out, and find ways to uplift the voices and stories that are silenced.
Regardless of whether there are cameras or reporters there to catch it, protestors have not backed down. They continue to fight and show their strength during such dire times, and regardless, they will not be stopped.
The disproportionate media coverage between the recent murders of protestors in Uttar Pradesh and SRK’s son’s drug charges demonstrates that there is an urgent need for citizens to be mindful of how they consume information, and recognize what hidden agendas may be at play.
About the author: Manisha is a writer and reporter with previous radio and television experience, who is passionate about connecting audiences to the stories and voices that matter to them most. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha