Prime time television in India has become a platform to peddle hatred against Muslims, the largest minority group at 14 per cent of the country’s population, said senior journalists and commentators.
They admitted that a large section of mainstream media is pursuing an agenda to vilify Muslims and projecting the entire community as backward and disloyal to India.
They are openly called “anti-national” on live television and these sustained, daily attacks on Muslims are causing fissures in the society.
Moreover, this hatred has acquired primetime legitimacy due to the massive reach of these channels.
“This is a form of Islamophobia that has been spread. In particular, I would like to name a few television anchors who have contributed to the recent toxicity in Indian society, and they include Anjana Om Kashyap of Aaj Tak, Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News, Amish Devgun of Network 18 Hindi and Gaurav Sawant of India
Today TV,” said Paranjoy Guha Thakurta – an independent journalist.
“Night after night, TV debates focus not on holding the government to account but communal rifts – real or perceived – between Hindus and Muslims,” independent website Scroll said in a media commentary recently.
This kind of programming is cleverly built around news events and saw a spike last week when the Supreme Court concluded arguments in Ayodhya dispute between Hindus and Muslims, the Scroll said.
“Mainstream media is murdering Indian democracy. This is not done by one or two but by several hundred news channels," Ravish Kumar Managing Editor, NDTV India told Gulf News.
While the TV industry does claim to have a self-regulatory mechanism to monitor inflammatory content, there is little evidence that channels are following any guidelines or that any institutions are monitoring the content.
Journalists also acknowledge that this kind of toxicity in newsrooms is spilling out on to the streets.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Senior Editor, The Wire, said: “As a direct result of the communal politics in the last five plus years, there is a clear deficit of trust between Hindus and Muslims.
"This lack of trust or mistrust can then easily be fuelled for creating hatred against the Muslims and makes them vulnerable for violent attacks on them. News channels through their shameless bigotry and naked display of communalism are normalising this hate and violence on vulnerable Muslims.”
Given the massive reach of these channels, their content is reaching not just Indian homes but also to nations in the geographical vicinity and beyond. For example, Arabian Gulf region is home to millions of Indians, including Hindus and Muslims.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk