Why media blacked out AIMPLB Conference

By Asim Jalal

Media is the fourth pillar of democracy. It is an inseparable part of a strong and influential society. It  acts as a link between the people and government and projects problems, difficulties and needs of the people before the government on the basis of which governments formulate their policies and political parties formulate their action plans.

An idea of the power and influence of the media can be had from these views of Africa-born American thinker and standard bearer of human rights (late) Al Haj Malik Al Shahbaz whom Americans know by the name of Malcolm ‘X’. ‘Media is the most powerful institution of this world. If it so wants, it can make an innocent person guilty and a guilty person innocent…. Because it controls people’s minds’. Indian Muslims themselves in particular and common people in general have well observed this power of the media. It has happened many times that after the arrest of Muslim youth on the pretext of being perpetrators of bomb blasts, youths whom media presented through their special reporting as dangerous terrorists and polluted the minds of people, even after their honourable release by courts were compelled to lead a life as that of a criminal or an accused. From this point of view, media’s responsibility in a democracy is very important and its impartiality guarantees the survival of democracy.

The question is: is Indian media fulfilling this responsibility honestly and impartially? If we see the reporting of All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s last day’s open session proceedings at the end of its 3-day conference on 22 April in Mumbai, the reply is in the negative. The media, which gives so much importance to homosexuals that if we talk about homosexuality, it is presented as a national problem though their total number in the country may not exceed a couple of thousands, but the same media completely ignores the grand conference of AIMPLB despite the fact that it was not a purely religious conference but pertained to constitutional rights of Indian Muslims and its objective was to protest against courts” interference in Muslim personal laws and to bring this to the notice of Parliament and those in power. But the way in which this was blacked out by the media creates the suspicion that the entire media is being controlled by a one particular power. Neither the electronic media nor the mainstream print media considered it worthy of public attention to report the Board’s 3-day meeting or at least the last day’s open session.

On Sunday, 24 April, when Muslims in their lakhs from all over Maharashtra converged at Azad Maidan to give the message to government that they want amendments in Right to Education Act, Direct Taxes Code Bill and Waqf Board so that their personal laws may not be affected, electronic media was presenting the expulsion of Mufti Shamoon Qasmi from Team Anna as if this is the only problem for Muslims or the people of India. Our electronic media feels no hesitation in devoting hours for a cricket match even before it started, and which misses no opportunity in projecting some controversial fatwa of some madrasa (some times some such fatwas are 100 percent appropriate but are beyond the comprehension of the reporters) and giving wide publicity to it simply to defame Muslims. This same media does not want to spare a few minutes to the very well-organised and peaceful open session of AIMPLB. The same media magnifies the petty and personal problem of Gudia as if it is a national problem and gives it full coverage for days on end but when the second largest majority of the country protests and speaks on some key problems in a highly organised manner, it totally blacks it out. Same is the attitude of newspapers.

It is regrettable that in a country like India where inspite of so much emphasis on English, the number of people who speak or understand English is extremely small. English newspapers are given the status of mainstream media. If the reporting of AIMPLB’s meeting in newspapers is reviewed, Mumbai edition of an English newspaper which boasts of claiming to be the biggest newspaper of the country, did not give it the importance of more than a single column news item. The photo of the vast multitude of Muslims in Azad Maidan was published in a funny way on page 2 while the news itself appeared on page 4. It may be stated here that we are talking about Mumbai newspapers only. Since Board’s meeting was held in Mumbai, a good coverage of this meeting was expected from Mumbai’s newspapers but, as stated above, local newspapers did not bother to cover it. Another newspaper published from Mumbai published the news about this conference in a single column.

This is inspite the fact that the organisers of this conference had given wide publicity to it in advance through posters and press conferences. On the last day of the 3-day conference, the public meeting was to continue till about 10 pm but considering that media may not cover the full proceedings of this conference till that late hour, a press conference was held at 4 pm and the resolutions passed in the 3-day conference were presented in detail in this press conference so that more coverage to this could be given in the print as well as electronic media but even then not much was reported in the media.

To add to all this, the organisation to which AIMPL Board had given the responsibility of publicity and reception was accused by state’s home ministry of having links with SIMI.

The question arises as to why the media behaved in such a casual and indifferent manner? Is it because the conference proceeded in a peaceful and orderly manner and there was no indiscipline or clash etc.? Had there been violent clashes, indiscipline or mismanagement, the same media would have given much publicity to discredit the conference or Muslims. We do not mean to say that all media circles suffer from the same mentality but when responsible channels and newspapers, which are known for their independence and impartiality, do not give any importance to issues which Muslims consider very important, our minds are compelled to think about their true leanings. (Translated from Urdu)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2012 on page no. 7

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