Noise Censorship – The Hindu
The act of delegitimizing professional journalism undermines the status of news media as the fourth estate
For nearly two decades, I have simultaneously reviewed the annual Reuters Memorial Lecture at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and the Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism administered by Columbia University. While the awards represent best practices in public information, the conference deals with “a critical issue facing the news industry” and is given by “someone at the highest level of journalism. “. Simultaneous reading, in a sense, becomes a form of SWOT analysis. The lectures and awards provide insight into the current state of journalism and provide valuable clues about navigation in its rough waters.
The vulnerability of journalism
It is disheartening that this year the Reuters Memorial Conference and the Pulitzer Prizes have become real documents on the vulnerability of journalism. In April 2020, Nadja Drost wrote a long report in The California Sunday Magazine titled “When Can We Really Rest? It was about migrants crossing the Colombia-Panama border, which would be one of the most dangerous journeys in the world, to reach the United States. On June 11, 2021, Ms. Drost, a freelance writer, received the Pulitzer Prize for Article written for her article, which the Pulitzer committee described as “a courageous and compelling account of global migration that documents a group’s journey on foot. through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world ”.
The drama is that The California Sunday Magazine no longer exists. Last June, it stopped its print edition. And as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc, the magazine stopped posting online and posting on social media at the end of September. Kristen Hare of Poynter underlined the historical importance of this development. She wrote: “At least in the last 10 years, this is the first example we can find of a post that closes before winning a Pulitzer.” She also pointed out that in the United States, during the pandemic, more than 75 newsrooms closed, some of which were over 100 years old. This pandemic-induced bloodbath in journalism is also evident in India.
While the Pulitzer Prize went to a former publication devoted to long-running journalism, the Reuters Memorial Lecture highlighted the multiple pressures journalists face to practice their profession in a free and independent manner. On June 8, Brazilian journalist Patrícia Campos Mello delivered the annual conference based on her series of investigative articles on the rise of disinformation in Brazil. While his speech focused on Brazil, it is impossible not to draw parallels with what we are witnessing in India. She said: “Lies are the foundation of the health tragedy we are going through and lies are the cornerstone of our coming political disaster. Professional journalism is one of the latest obstacles to the collapse of democracy in Brazil and many other countries struggling with an avalanche of lies. Meticulously verified information, careful and balanced reporting and in-depth investigations are the only hope of bringing reality back to many countries where facts have become malleable and often secondary to opinions and beliefs.
This is also true in India. We have seen a blatant underreporting of the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths. We have seen figures, including vaccine availability, being falsified. We are in an unenviable position where the Union government has issued a directive asking states not to disclose details of the vaccine stock on hand as these details are “sensitive information”.
Ms Mello pointed out that the muzzling of the press has taken on a different tint today. She called it “noise censorship and defamation.” It is a trait that has been standardized in India. She said, “Censorship in this new world does not require the suppression of information. On the one hand, populist leaders are inundating social media, messaging apps and the internet in general with the side of the story they want to prevail – so that it drowns out surveys and negative news. This is the so-called noise censorship. Then, for this manipulation of public opinion to be successful, these digital populist leaders must delegitimize professional journalism. “
The act of delegitimizing professional journalism undermines the status of the news media as a fourth estate and denies them the crucial role of watchdog. This blatant institutional capture not only breaks our democratic fabric but also irreparably damages it.