The Superhero India Needs and Deserves- Press Ombudsman 

‘My country is diverse’, perhaps, every Indian has said it aloud but never understood what it really means. Here I am, and I repeat ,”My country is diverse.” and when I say so, I understand the fact there are multiple religions, castes, sub-castes, ethnicities, religious, regional, geographical and racial diversity. I acknowledge each and every one of them with equal integrity. I know and understand that India has a long history and a longer background of events which keep revisiting the present repeatedly.

With over 22 major languages and over 720 dialects India publishes over a hundred thousand magazines, newspapers and other periodicals. We definitely need someone to monitor these media houses and these newspapers which open and close ever day.  The Press Council has indeed done a great job in uplifting media to its influential status and launching Press Commissions to save Media from the clutches of emergency. Perhaps we need another Press Commission which shall highlight the need for ‘Press Ombudsman’ in Indian media-scape. A Press Ombudsman can be understood as a Press Police, an office which monitors the media and points out their mistakes. Ombudsman which provide feedback to the management about the press.

The current scenario of Indian media is that of a parrot who can’t stop talking. Every news channel out there or newspapers have been accused of being controlled by their owners. Biased news, misinformation, paid news syndrome and mixing opinions with information is common among newspapers. I myself have spotted several mistakes of factual nature and logic in news reports of TOI etc..

As a student of journalism I currently observe the media divulging from the idea of objective journalism. The advertisement-news ratio is very high, the content too poor. Quality of news and words is satisfactory. Even the readers and viewers are able to recognize the patterns of their corporate media houses which breathe on Oxygen provided by ‘political backing’ and ‘wealth of shareholders’.  According to a journalist who chooses to remain anonymous, ‘every newspaper or media channel has an agenda to satisfy, an owner to answer to and a political power to bank upon.’ It is very true of my country.

Now is the time to introduce the concept of a Press Ombudsman who ensures that among the noises of these shouting journalists, the voice of people doesn’t get drowned. He will ensure that media becomes a medium for the voice of the people to be heard by the system. If media starts adding opinions of its own, the whole game is ruined and this where the Ombudsman comes in. He should be a vigilante who keeps a sharp lookout for crime made by media. A press Ombudsman will truly be an institution that belongs to people and only people. He must be unbiased and free of associations and stereotypes. Correcting inaccuracies, or pointing insensitivity in reporting are just the beginning of an Ombudsman’s task, the real task for him  is to read between the lines of editorial pieces and expose the agenda that hides behind a reporter’s words.

India needs a strict culture of watching the press, the editors of various news channels ought to know what to discuss and what to avoid. This is a matter of common sense and cannot be taught to everyone. India is on the path to development, so they tell me. At this time our duty as journalists is to show India in a good light, keep correcting us from the inside, but outside we should look presentable and always focus on the positive. The Hindu introduced the readers’ editor which works more or less the same way but is not so efficient.  The 1 lakh publications need an eye which can watch them and their words. IT would be criminal not too, because the content they now show on news channels and TV is simply not tolerable.

The ombudsman will ensure that the press does not uses its rights to its own advantage. Abuse of press rights will be punished by forceful action. There should be no tolerance of those who have no code of ethics. A better media will make a better India. A Press Ombudsman is the superhero that India needs and its media deserves right now.