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Dignity of members of Fourth Estate in perspective  


By RP Nailwal

The key question making the rounds among the Fourth Estate is: “What does the twenty-two year existence of the sub- Himalayan state mean for the scribes who played a key role in the formation of the state before and after it came into existence? This question has assumed relevance especially after Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s praise for the role of the Fourth Estate while speaking at the release of a Vikas Pustika on 11 November. He minced no words in praising the distinctive role of the media in a democratic dispensation.

Dhami and other leaders of the state know well how and what role the media played in highlighting the pressing need for a separate state before and after Uttarakhand was eventually formed. They also acknowledge the constant efforts of the media in highlighting the achievements of the contemporary governments and omissions and commissions of the ruling class.

However, it is important to note here that despite the Chief Minister’s praise for the fourth estate, the ground reality encountered by the robust media every now and then is thought-provoking. The senior members of the media tend to express surprise at the innate contradictions of what is being spoken about their role.

Most of the media persons, specially the senior ones, feel that while they are constantly rendering their unnoticed service in educating and informing the members of the public, their own dignity is compromised, more often than not. The working journalists, specially the senior ones, strongly feel that as guests of the government and that of the head of government, they are often frisked at the entrance gate despite the fact that some of the senior journalists have already spent their lifetime in the profession. This process of unwarranted frisking at the gate lowers their image in their own estimation. “Is it the way a guest is treated?” they ask. “When you are a guest, why are you being subjected to a body check by an impolite constable or sub-inspector at the entrance point?” asks a journalist, adding, “When you step into the portals or the venues at the invitation of the government, it becomes essential to forget what you are and what your standing in the profession is, and lastly who you are.”  It is clear that often journalists feel that their dignity and self respect is compromised so blatantly. Some officials need to remember that most of the senior journalists being frisked at the entry points have played a crucial role in the Uttarakhand movement in the mid-nineties and eventually in the formation of the state. They need to acknowledge that some senior journalists are very well qualified in all respects and have been relentlessly highlighting the problems and prospects of the nascent state for long and even to this day.

Many among the thinking people tend to express a great deal of surprise on why this is happening when the government officials already know well who is a journalist, and an accredited senior media person or who is  indeed a gate-crasher. The question, therefore, is: Why is this treatment meted out to journalists when the Prime Minister and Chief Minister often talk about the enlightening role of media in a healthy democracy? Is it not the bounden duty of the official concerned to separate the wheat from the chaff?

It’s a simple expected fact that when you invite guests, you care for them in the best manner possible. But as guests of the government, it is not difficult to understand some senior journalists’ predicament especially after the call for the lunch or dinner is made. “Why this lunch and dinner after the programme under a shamiyana, when all of a sudden young and strong ones, not many being members of the media, are allowed to suddenly rush towards the dinner or lunch plates. For many senior persons of the media, a melee of invited guests and resultant overcrowding makes the spectacle an unsightly one.

Here, again, one tends to gain the impression year after year that no serious thought is given to the list and number of invited guests. It is not difficult to understand why and how it is happening. Another long write-up on this subject is the need of the hour.

(RP Nailwal is native of Uttarakhand. Formerly with the TOI, he now writes for papers as a freelancer. He is an expert on various subjects related to the hills).