ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Media: Stenographer to Power

For a news media that is often in pursuit of the lowest common denominator of audience taste, the Radia tapes offered a story that had sensation in abundant measure. Yet, save a handful of exceptions, the story has been consigned to a black hole of neglect. The news media has increasingly been seen as a stenographer to power and an instrument for harnessing every form of dissent to dominant structures. The Radia tapes show that it has been actually engaged in a more sordid enterprise than stenography - it has been an active and eager participant in the abuse of power.

India was one among several countries to receive advance warning earlier this week from the United States’ State Department about the potential for acute diplomatic embarrassment from the leak of a quarter-million classified communications, mostly pertaining to recent US military and espionage adventures overseas. On 29 November, Wikileaks, the webbased media group that has in recent times become a treasure trove of documents that hold up the actions of the powerful and the unaccountable to the light, unleashed its most recent cache. The feeble protest that the leaks put US and other lives at risk was disregarded on the single touchstone of public interest. As newspapers set about the job of telling their stories, the questions they put to themselves were simple: did the documents disclose anything about the way modern democracies are governed that the public at large had a right to know? Could this information possibly be of use in bringing about stronger and more democratic structures of governance?

The answers were clearly in the affirmative. The newspapers were willing to accommodate compulsions of the state by deleting the names of individuals whose personal safety was likely to be jeopardised. But the substance of all available documents was put out for public scrutiny.

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