Special Reports

Media and Communal Harmony

New Delhi: Mazameen.com, a website offering Urdu articles on various subjects, held a symposium here at the Ansari Auditorium of Jamia Millia Islamia on 6 November. Irfan Waheed, who along with Khalid Saifullah, built this website, informed the audience that it was launched on 15 April this year and by now hosts creations of 370 Urdu writers. It also has some articles translated from English.

Media symposium organised by Mazameen.com

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, vice chancellor of Maulana Azad University of Jodhpur, said Sir Syed with his Tahzeebul Akhlaq, started constructive journalism in Urdu. A galaxy followed before and after Independence who  served Urdu and the country and never compromised on issues of national integrity. He said Urdu newspapers are presenting the issues needed by their readers. He said Urdu and Hindi have come close today and some Hindi newspapers have now ventured into Urdu print media, which means Urdu is still profitable because these people are businessmen who will not opt for a loss-making industry. There is potential in Urdu journalism, he said adding market forces follow the readers’ needs and not sentiments.

Celebrated Hindi journalist and head of Media Studies Group, Anil Chamadia said communal media is a challenge for democracy today. We are defensive now. Communalism is growing and news of communal harmony is seldom seen in our papers. It was not long ago that Hindus and Muslims used to celebrate Hindu and Muslim festivals together. Hindus used to make taazias. He said the first Press Commission of 1954 said only a few lines about communalism. Now the Press Council of India has issued a lengthy guideline on how to report on communal issues. Press Council keeps issuing advisories but no one bothers. Our press has now progressed from communal to religious. Newspapers now have a set framework for communal news. Those who oppose it are on the defensive.

Manish Bhalla of Outlook magazine said journalism must be secular. Communalisation has now pushed secularism out. Today you will sell if you play this game. These people are criminals as big as those who operate underground. She said, a lot of good still remains in our midst. Society cannot be forced to follow one stream of thought.

Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD said those who prefer to remain silent are in fact siding with the rulers who want to put locks on our lips.

Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan of the Milli Gazette said media is reflecting the realties of our society. Our leaders attained independence and laid the foundation of progress and heavy industry but they failed to build men of character. He said media has been tuned into a purely commercial activity and advertisement managers are now deciding what should go into print or on air. He said press is the fourth pillar of democracy and the freedoms it enjoys in the constitutions of all countries are to promote its role as a watchdog keeping an eye on corruption and misuse of power by rulers and powerful people in society. Our media is failing in the discharge of this duty.

Senior journalist Farah Naqvi said communalisation is so powerful these days that her grandfather, a lawyer, had to remove his nameplate from his house in Luckonw. She said media is very superficial these days. Everything is being mixed up. Kashmiri militancy is being called Islamic Terrorism. People are not read to listen to anything about Kashmir, that we have committed mistakes there.

Journalist Rana Ayub, author of Gujarat Files, lamented that we spend so much on meat and biryani but cannot spare even two rupees to buy newspapers. We are dead. We have allowed what is happening to us. She said we have to fight our battles ourselves.

Syed Faisal Ali, group editor of the Urdu daily Rashtriya Sahara, said no editor can go against the wishes of his owner. He said TV channels are more afflicted by the current vices than print media. Today big journalists are those who are surrounded by bodyguards.

Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, former member of the Planning Commission, said that two years after the Gujarat 2002 carnage she raised the question to the state chief minister: who is protecting Muslims in your state? She lamented, she did not receive the support of other members of the commission. This silence has led us to 2014. She said she leads a life of fear through in her age all fear should have disappeared.