I seek your indulgence by starting with an anecdote of India before independence, the era which faced the enslavement and the bloodletting of millions in which during the fight partition was an unwanted addition to an already full plate of immense. The facet of country exhibited the horrendous condition of the Indians suffering from slavery, illiteracy, subjugation of British. At that time the freedom of expression was a myth among the bondslaves. But, then the wave of patriotism boiled the blood of freedom fighters and they all started to rebel against the colonists. The Hindi media started to raise their voice. The Press was fiercely involved in rallying the masses, and inevitably, the British government was increasingly becoming apprehensive about the Press’ freedom. Through the newspapers, a nationalistic rebellion was slowly being pieced together through words and symbols. But, today there is a cruel paradox. We are in the midst of an information explosion with huge data at a click away. The new era is slowly adulterine the media whilst causing slow death to the Hindi media especially.
The first Hindi newspaper named 'Udant Martand' in the Indian subcontinent was founded by Pt. Yugal Kishore Shukla in Calcutta (Kolkata) on 30 May, 1826. The name Udant Martand means ‘News-Sun’ which represented the social conditions of 19th century, though Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first person to interlink the press and social issues and backed the religious, political and financial interests of the natives but the credit to run the press in a professional and systematic manner goes to Yugal Kishore Shukla. This was the draconian period of the Britishers and the Indian people were engrossed in the mentality of slavery and who’d have thought that a revolution which was started on 30 May, 1826 will soar to a level where it would be defined as the ‘Fourth Pillar of Democracy’. Hindi journalism’s contribution in shaping this country’s freedom struggle is phenomenal, since its inception, it is advancing itself by riding on a chariot of cultural awareness, political consciousness, literary concern and voice against repression. The factors responsible for the subjugation of Indians during the barbaric reign of the Britishers were already identified during the Bhartendu period, but the man who connected these factors with the political and cultural consciousness of the people was Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Meanwhile, underground journalism has also ignited the sense of the freedom struggle with its fierce stand against the British government. But, Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagrahi leadership did not let anything go underground and journalism also adopted this as its modus operandi. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi's 'Pratap' newspaper published from Kanpur was a vivid example of this culture. The newspaper heavily criticized the British rule without mincing the words, soon it became a newspaper which was at the target of the Britishers and they want to silence that voice which was gaining support by building an unfavourable environment for them. Following this tradition, Baburao Vishnu Paradakar from Varanasi started 'Dainik Today' and Paliwal Ji from Agra started 'Sainik'. Editorials and news started publishing were now a part of the mainstream and soon it became the voice of dissent against the barbaric acts of Britishers, social evils and the conformist behaviour of the society. The strong presence of Premchand, Nirala, Banarsidas Chaturvedi, Pandey Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra’, Shiv Poojan Sahay etc. made their strong presence by starting various magazines and newspapers like 'Jagaran', 'Hans', 'Madhuri', 'Abhyudaya', 'Matvala', 'Vishal Bharat' etc, this was the era when the foundation stone of the fourth pillar of democracy was laid down. Stories, essays, articles, comments penned by Acharya Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, Pt. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Balkrishna Bhatt, Pratapnarayan Mishra, Munshi Premchand, Rudradatt Sharma, Hazariprasad Dwivedi, Ambikadutt Vyas and Balmukund Gupta are nothing short of a life lesson and our journalists can learn a lot by going through their writings.
After the independence of India, the tide of revolution also started to descend. With the changing nature of the society, journalism also began to evolve, leaving its core principles behind, it started shifting towards a capitalist approach. The journalism which created an uproar in the freedom struggle provided a ground for social change is now at the mercy of capitalists and money. The journalism which was commenced with the Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi is still engaged with its goal of finding the truth, but the ethical values of journalism are witnessing a downfall.
The question arises that if the press is being controlled by the market, so what are the risks to the autonomy of the press? Investments of capitalists, builders and liquor syndicates have strongly influenced the basic posture of the fourth pillar of democracy. A sting operation of Coberapost revealed that journalists are ready to change the narrative for the sake of money, this sting revealed that the inside stories of the news world are interesting and complex. The sting gives ground to the fact that the mainstream media has no interest in working for the nation and be a part of building the nation into a powerful territory and the irony here is that they don’t have any problem in becoming a part of the disintegration process. News portal, newspapers and electronic channels have made their way to the villages and are easily accessible by the common people giving power to the people and to the journalists, with this evolution, the power of journalists have surely increased, but they’re not getting the respect they deserve. Journalism is a respected profession, but with changing time why the level of respect is decreasing instead of increasing? Perhaps the biggest reason is the uncertainty of livelihood as it is a well-known fact that the inconsistencies of salary in the media world are largely rife. The reporter who wanders to collect the news and follow a trail of investigation for their profession are getting minimum wages in this era of inflation. There are numerous journalists who are not paid regularly, but they are asked to earn for the company and in return get a sum of money in the form of commission. There are journalists who are working in the adverse conditions, dealing with the political pressure, resentment of the mafias and facing the slight of police personnel but are honest with their profession and trying their every bit to improve the condition of journalism at the risk of their own lives. There are journalists who have paid the price of reporting the truth, for instance, journalist Sandeep Kothari was burnt alive in Balaghat, Rioters fired bullets in the chest of journalist Rajesh Verma in Muzaffarnagar, AVN Shankar was beaten to death in Andhra Pradesh, televised by TV channel stringer Tarun Kumar was strangled, Maoists killed Sai Reddy in Bijapur, Rajesh Mishra was beaten to death with an iron rod at a school premises in Rewa, Hemant Yadav was sacked with bullets in Chandauli.
If there are journalists who are sacrificing their lives, so, on the other hand, there are journalists who are taxi drivers, they keep press card with them to avoid any heckle from the government employee during an investigation. Well, this war of regeneration and expiration will continue, but despite facing hurdles the pen of a journalist will continue to illuminate the light of hope and truth and there will always be some journalists who would bend their knees in front of capitalism crushing the basic principles of journalism.