Indian media no longer democracy’s fourth pillar


By Santosh Digal

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 27, 2018: The web portal, countercurrents.org, has been awarded this year’s Solidarity Media Award initiated by Solidarity Youth Movement.

Countercurrents.org received this special award for its courageous interventions in upholding Human Rights and Citizen’s Rights’. Countercurrents editor Binu Mathew will receive the award on October 31 at Press Club Hall, Thiruvananthapuram from veteran journalist Thomas Jacob. The award carries 10,000 rupees and a plaque.

The other recipients are K. Sujith and P.T Nassar. K. Sujith receives the award for his series on persisting caste system in Kerala published in Mangalam daily. He is a sub editor in Mangalam paper. Media One coordinating editor P.T Nassar receives the award for his video report on the exemplary communal harmony prevailing in the Kasargod district of Kerala. The report titled ‘Myth and Reality’ weaves around the cultural and historic mosaic that engenders the unique communal harmony of the district.

Matters India talked to www.countercurrents editor Binu Mathew to find more. Excerpts:

Matters India: Please say briefly about yourself.

Binu Mathew: I am a senior journalist. I worked in the mainstream media for 20 years. I ran www.countercurrents.org parallel to the mainstream media job for 16 years. In 2016, I quit my job to dedicate full time to www.countercurrents.org

Please say more about countercurrents.org.

Humanity is facing its greatest existential threat ever with climate change and resource depletion. This is not a crisis waiting to happen in the future, but it is already here and manifests itself in the many resource wars going on in several parts of the world, rising food and fuel prices, growing hunger, natural calamities of horrifying proportions, water scarcity, debt crisis, unemployment, social tensions among communities, growing human rights violations and unprecedented ecological degradation. Unless we take urgent action to change the way we live, trashing our only home, this beautiful planet earth, this crisis has the potential to wipe out the entire humanity and a majority of the other species from the face of this earth.

The objective of www.countercurrents.org is to spread awareness about this crisis and search for meaningful solutions. It (www.countercurrents.org) believes that energy intensive globalization should end and it must be replaced by a low energy, ecologically sustainable local economies. If humanity is to survive, the destructive system of capitalism and consumerism must be replaced by an economic system which is based on just equitable distribution and need based use of resources. We strive to reach this goal with our motto, which is “Educate! Organize! Agitate!”

Do you think human rights issues are more important today than before?

This is a Titanic moment in history! We as species are going through the greatest challenge in the history of humanity with climate change, resource depletion, mindless resource wars, threat of a nuclear winter, ethnic and communal strife, environmental degradation to name a few of the threats we are facing. The saddest part is that we are going to bring the whole edifice down and about to destroy all life forms on earth. All of these are only creating human rights crises of unimaginable proportions worldwide. This is only going to increase, unless humanity comes together as one family on a war footing and do everything in its capacity to mitigate it.

How has countercurrents.org championed the cause of human rights?

During 14 years of its existence www.countercurrents.org has published about 50,000 articles, fact finding reports, research papers and news items on major social issues around the world. All of these reports are related to human rights one way or another. As recognition of the quality of our journalism, United States Library of Congress started archiving our articles in their digital section since 2006.

How do you react to being awarded this year’s Solidarity Media Award?

I dedicate this award to all the writers of www. countercurrents.org who made this award possible. I also dedicate this award to all the human rights defenders around the world.

Please say something about Solidarity Youth Movement Kerala.

Solidarity youth movement is a Muslim youth Organisation from Kerala. They champion the cause of the underprivileged not just among Muslim community but cutting across religion, caste or creed.

How does Countercurrents.org generate income?

We do not accept any advertisement. What we do is participative journalism. Advertisers have no say in our content. Our web portal raises income by Crowd Funding. Crowd funding is a participative way of financing works you value. To crowd fund www.countecurrents, we have developed a subscription program.

What is unique about our subscription program is that unlike the usual subscriber based magazines, newspapers or websites, Countercurrents.org will be available to non-subscribers as well. Our subscription program is only to raise funds for our survival and to set aside an amount for our future growth, i.e., it is not for profit. By our subscription program, those who can contribute support or subsidize those who cannot pay. By paying you are helping www.countercurrents.org to reach thousands of others who cannot pay.

How do you look at the current scenario of media and human rights in India?

It is very grim. Authoritarianism is taking root in India. Many independent editors were ejected from their jobs by the current regime. Others are crawling on their knees before the autocratic, fascist, Hindutva regime.

Some media houses are playing as shills for the regime and often acts like lynch mob even inciting violence against human rights defenders, independent thinkers and whoever they think are against their hidden agenda. Some media houses brand many dissenters as anti-nationals. To put in a nutshell, Indian mainstream media is no longer, the fourth estate, the fourth pillar of democracy. This is a dangerous scenario.

On the other hand, there are a few independent media organizations that are standing tall. They are being hounded by the regime. This must be condemned.

Human rights defenders are hounded by the present regime. It is not just Human Rights defenders but whoever objects to their motives are hounded. The human rights situation is very grim. There is an undeclared emergency prevailing in India.

What can be done to address the situation?

Growing intolerance in India must be fought by tooth and nail. There must be a grand alliance of all political parties to defeat the fascist Hindutva forces. At the same time the so called ‘secular’ ‘liberal’ parties must do some soul searching and stop appeasing the Hindutva forces. Everyone must stop playing the ‘soft Hindutva’ game and pay allegiance to constitutionally mandated secular programs.

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