Friday, December 7, 2007

Devil’s Sermon: Reporting Parliament? Ha ha ha…

Our politicians run down the media for the way they cover Parliament and State Assemblies. They say the media is focusing on the negative: The unruly scenes in the houses, slogan shouting, gesticulations and the mad rush to the well in defiance of a hapless presiding officer…They give little attention and space for serious debates that take place in these august houses.
I have heard such complaints for long. Some time ago, at the Constitution Club in New Delhi, our I&B minister spoke eloquently about how the erosion of professional values in media. It could mean a threat to democracy. The media has lost touch with reality, it is far removed from the Indian rural life. It addresses only the urban middle class, etc, etc.
Great speech, and very high-minded too. Of course, I agree that much of the criticism is absolutely valid. The media has failed as a pillar of our democratic structure. It has estranged itself from the majority of Indian people. Right, let me ask a question: How serious and newsworthy are our parliamentary debates?
Ask any scribe watching the proceedings of Parliament from the press gallery. The answer will be, the so-called debates today offer very little by way of enlightenment or what can professionally be described as news. The fact is, debates in Parliament have suffered seriously in quality and relevance and now it is evident that they are at an abysmally low point.
Some time ago, Vayalar Ravi, now a Cabinet minister, made a frank observation. He said that it is an unhealthy situation that our Parliament is thickly packed with celebrities from the filmdom to the business, who seldom make any meaningful intervention in the proceedings of the Houses, some of them making an appearance only once in a while but still these ladies and gentlemen are sure to return to their Parliament seats session after session. They are there not because they serve the people’s interests, not because they are in any way involved with any public cause, not because they are public-spirited but only because they have influence among top leadership of our political parties, because they have money to buy the seats and votes and because they are in a position to overawe and impress the poor people with their money and glitter..
This celebrity menace notwithstanding, what is the performance of our parliamentarians in a normal session of Parliament? After watching the House from the press gallery almost continuously for around two years, this correspondent feels that there is nothing much for any journalist to report there. Ever since the 14th Lok Sabha came to life, Parliament has been known only for its turbulent confrontations and there have not been many occasions when one could enjoy the fireworks of a meaningful and enlightened debate
It can be said that this is not a new trend, this kind of hullabaloo has always been part of a vibrant democracy. True. But what even the veteran journalists who have covered Parliament decades vouch for is the that compared to the earlier parliaments, the present one has seen the nadir. There has been very few working days which went off well. For Parliament today the abnormal is normal. One would be lucky if one could sit through a day’s session without much sound and fury and with some really good work thrown in.
So in such circumstances, what could the poor hack sitting in the press gallery do to help Indian democracy shine? I am sure, those who have to report Parliament these days would testify that this is tough task. After all, a reporter has to be truthful to what he witnesses and what he/she encounters there often is what the politicians find quite objectionable in the media. Hence, it is time for our politicians also to ponder whether what they see in media is not their own faithful image?


Unknown said...

Devil's sermon is good. Send it to Vayalar and other prominent politicians. We are eagerly waiting for the comments relating to ur Kairali experience....

JS Adoor said...

Good piece Chekkutty. We have done a bit of analysis of this in the Citizens Report on Governance and Development(
There is a need to develop a parliamentary performance report card for each of the Parlamentarians. John Samuel