The Indian media is in a state of "crisis" which is not accidental or random, but systemic and structural, prominent Indian journalist Ravish Kumar said in Manila on Monday as he received the prestigious 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize.
Kumar, 44, is NDTV India's senior executive editor and one of India's most influential TV journalists who has been reporting real-life and under-reported problems of ordinary people, said the award citation by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.
"Indian media is in a state of crisis and this crisis is not accidental or random, but systemic and structural. Being a journalist has become a solitary endeavour," Kumar said in his acceptance speech here in the Philippines capital.
"It has become all the more important to evaluate the crisis in the media," he said.
Kumar was among five individuals who were declared winners of the award, which is Asia's premier prize and highest honour and celebrates greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia.
The four other winners of the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award are Ko Swe Win from Myanmar, Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand, Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab from the Philippines and Kim Jong-Ki from South Korea.
The award was instituted in 1957 to celebrate the life of Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay, the much-esteemed Philippine President. He was the third president of the country after World War II.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honour and is given every year to individuals or organisations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late Filipino leader.
Born in Jitwarpur village in Bihar, Kumar joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV) in 1996 and worked his way up from being a field reporter.
After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel - NDTV India - targeting the country's 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show "Prime Time."
"My world has changed since the announcement of the Ramon Magsaysay award. Your hospitality has won over my heart ever since I have landed in Manila as it has outshined the honour conferred upon me. To that end, from being a mere guest, I feel you have made me a part of your family. Usually award ceremonies are made up of temporary meetings: we meet today and perhaps not again. However, here it feels different. You have been successful in making me realise that I must indeed have done a deed good enough for you to have chosen me, because otherwise we are all just ordinary people trying to get by. Your love has made me more humble and responsible than before.
We have always measured inequality in terms of health and economy, but it is time for us to now also measure knowledge inequality. Today, when the resources for quality knowledge have become confined to a select few cities, we cannot even begin to imagine what the repercussions of this knowledge inequality in smaller towns and villages are. It is clear that their source of knowledge is the propaganda machine of 'WhatsApp University'. One cannot blame today's youth since it is a fact that they have been denied better education. It becomes all the more important here to evaluate the crisis of the media.
If the media characterises itself as 'WhatsApp University', what will be its influence on its audiences and the society? It is a good sign that the citizens of India have begun to understand this. That is why the congratulatory messages that I am receiving are also replete with worries on how the media has turned rogue. I am, therefore, very happy for myself, but am also filled with sadness looking at the state of the profession that I belong to.
Indian media is in a state of crisis which isn't accidental or random but structural. Being a journalist has become a solitary endeavour as uncompromising journalists find themselves being forced out of their jobs by news organisations. Nevertheless, it's heartening to see that we are still survived by those few who are putting their lives and careers at risk to practice honest journalism. Multiple women journalists are speaking out and surviving on freelance earning. With the internet shut down in Kashmir, news channels abided by the government's stand. Yet, we should also account for those who have dared to report from within that shutdown and face the wrath of the army of trolls. While journalism as an organization may have tinkered into non-existence, journalists continue to survive. Can we restore the sanctity of reporting news? I hope audiences will value truthfulness in reporting, and the diversity of voices and platforms. A democracy can thrive only as long as its news is truthful. I accept the Ramon Magsaysay award. I accept it because this award is for all those readers and viewers who continue to live in areas of knowledge inequality but have a thirst for good and truthful information and knowledge. Many young journalists are attentive to this thirst. In the times to come, they will change the meaning of journalism from what it has become today. It is possible that they may lose the battle, but there is no other way left apart from resistance. Not all battles are fought for victory - some are fought to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield."
with PTI inputs