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'Most of Mainstream Media a Disgrace to Democracy': Ravish Kumar at Peabody Ceremony

'When a journalist becomes spreader of hate and lies, instigator of mob lynching, a cheerleader for the government, [they] become an instrument to kill democracy.'
Ravish Kumar delivers the acceptance speech at the Peabody Awards, 2024. Photo: YouTube screengrab.

New Delhi: Most of what is Indian mainstream media today is a disgrace to democracy and humanity, journalist Ravish Kumar said on June 9 while accepting the Peabody Award along with Vinay Shukla and others, for Shukla’s documentary on him.

The award aims to honour the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2023.

While We Watched follows Kumar over a two-year period as he navigates violent personal threats, falling network ratings at NDTV, staffing losses, loss of funding and deeper ethical questions. The Awards’ citation calls it a “powerful defence of independent journalism” and a “poignant portrait of everyday courage in the face of radicalised politics and publics.”

The ceremony for the awards was held on June 9 in Los Angeles.

Taking the stage for a minute-long speech after Shukla, Kumar delivered a powerful critique of the mainstream Indian news system.

“I left my English pocket dictionary in the car, so I really have very few words to say,” Kumar began by saying, to some laughs.

“When a journalist becomes spreader of hate and lies, instigator of mob lynching, a cheerleader for the government, [they] become an instrument to kill democracy. When hundreds of news channels repeat the same, they become a weapon to kill humanity. Most of Indian mainstream media is a disgrace to democracy and humanity,” he said.

“I would like to remember my wife Nayana, my brave daughters Tanima and Tanisha, who suffered a lot, and my millions of viewers who felt hopeless, helpless and stateless because of this criminal Indian mainstream media. They came in search of hope. They supported me. They gave me hope to do journalism. Whenever you get the chance, please do support journalism. You will get a good democracy. Thank you.”

Writing for The Wire, too, Kumar had asked, “When journalism assumes the role of a flagbearer of communalism, can the resistance to it be anything but political?”

Kumar is one of the foremost independent voices in Indian journalism today. In 2022, after NDTV, the channel he was a face of for decades, was taken over by Gautam Adani, Kumar quit the channel and took to YouTube. Many had called the takeover by Adani, one of the richest men on earth, a “hostile” one.

 

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