The recent unsavoury incident where a senior bureaucrat mauled a journalist of a premier channel has formed the staple of prime time news in the state. The bureaucrat in question- sports secretary Vishal Dev shoved the channel’s boom and ordered the reporter to walk out of his chamber.
Dev’s alleged misconduct has stoked a controversy. A section of the media fraternity and stakeholders have condemned the act, terming it an assault on the fourth pillar of democracy. Backers of the Youth Congress and activists of the National Students Union of India gheraoed Dev’s official residence and burnt his effigy. They have threatened to intensify the stir if the IAS officer does not issue an unconditional apology.
The officer’s reaction during the press meet was not bizarre. He was visibly livid after the leading new channel ran motivated visuals, exposing the glitches in online ticketing for the Hockey World Cup beginning November 28. The media house claims it was targeted since it was the only channel that dared to take on the authorities for their slipshod management, resulting in distress to the hockey fans.
In the stand-off between the bureaucrat and the newsperson, vested interests have taken their pole positions. But hardly anyone recognises the values and ethics on either side that have gone for a toss. Dev’s outrageous conduct as a senior officer has been pilloried. Many believe he has shamed the senior bureaucracy with his unpalatable behaviour with a journalist. A position at the upper echelons of bureaucracy ought to instil values apart from investing power and authority. Bureaucrats are not democratically chosen but they are meant to do the bidding for their elected political masters. An elected representative carries the weight of expectations of his vast swathes of voters. Bureaucrats should be wary of these expectations as they also serve the people at large. And, also take note of the stellar role played by the media to keep democracy afloat. Any effort, verbal or non-verbal to muzzle the media is reprehensible. Arm twisting by an influential officer on the press is equally condemnable. A free press is the backbone of a free society- to stifle it is akin to shuddering the democratic edifice.
One recalls the murky confrontation Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) promoter Naveen Jindal had with Zee TV. Jindal enraged with the channel accused it of running an orchestrated campaign to defame him. Somewhere, the media also falls into a credibility crisis. Press is free and there is no censorship on it yet. But media is self-regulatory as well. It ought to draw the line, set limits and always be led by a set of values and principles. Over the top anchoring or reporting serves no purpose. Also, agenda laced journalism evokes antipathy. Over to the Fourth Estate to keep its flag unsullied and soaring high. Know the rules and follow it scrupulously. Period!