Not A Question Of Who Blinked First

After nearly two months of the media, under the aegis of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ union, boycotting all positive news related to the SPF Government, particularly the Home Department, for arresting the Editor of Sanaleibak daily A Mobi on alleged trumped up charges on December 29, 2010, the apex body of the journalists in the State has decided to suspend its agitation till February 25, following an assurance from the Chief Minister that  the FIR lodged against A Mobi, who is also the spokesperson and vice-president of AMWJU, would be withdrawn at the soonest possible time. The decision to suspend the agitation was not taken at the flip of the coin, but after due deliberation during an emergency general body meeting held on February 17.

This was not the first time that the media and the Government have been at logger heads with each other and certainly this will not be the last, given the fact that the interests and priorities of the two professions (power politics) and journalists have ample scope to collide with each other and set off a series of chain reactions. The natural response from the socially and politically aware citizens of the land, would be “who has won and who has lost?” This question is natural and not something unsurprising or shocking, for in any standoff, one party will have to cede some ground to the other to settle the matter.

However when two very vital components of democracy, the media and an elected Government go hammer and tongs against each other, there can be no winners but only losers. Perhaps, to the man with the positive outlook, who would rather see the glass half filled rather than half empty, such a tussle is healthy once in a while as this provides the space for debates and discussions, which are all necessary components of democracy. The agitation has been suspended, but there can be no outright answer to the question of who won or blinked first, for it was a battle where a line demarking the winner and the loser cannot be drawn.

However one important point that has been associated with AMWJU since 2001, seems to have blown over the head of not only the citizens of the land but also the very members of this Union. The present AMWJU that we see today is the child born during the month of September, 2001, when the scribes’ body decided to take their grievances to the streets and while the world was transfixed with the follow up stories of 9/11, all news and information were blacked out here as the media persons had gone on a pen down strike. Perhaps it was the first time that an association or an organization of professionals had openly come out against the conflicting diktats of some powerful underground organizations. It was during this time that AMWJU grew in strength and another parallel body of the journalists was given a quiet burial.

From those heady days, AMWJU has evolved, set new benchmarks, unitedly faced all threats and diktats and have been able to say enough, when it is time to say enough. Not many organizations can do this and AMWJU has been able to stand on its feet against the attempts of numerous sons of the soil to silence its voice or follow its diktats as well as take on the Government agencies, especially the police, when any of their men overstepped their briefs. It may also help others, who are not familiar with AMWJU to inform them that we have our own internal system of checks and balances and quite a number of journalists, including some very senior ones, have been hauled up.

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind: This is from the legendary figure, a pioneer of Blues, Bad boy of the entertainment (music) industry, more of a poet than a guitar strumming musician, lead vocalist of The Doors, a personality who died too young, too soon and who is regarded to have come to earth a little ahead of his time.  Jim Morrison is not exactly going to be the figure parents would encourage their young children to look up to as a role model. But Morrison was more than just a drug taking, zombie like creature who only knew how to use expletives and pass them off as lyrics set to the peculiar beat of the Blues for beneath the exterior appearance of a deeply troubled soul, lay a genius, whose observations of the developments around him stand out prominently and it is fortunate for the members of the fourth estate, that he had something profound to say about the media. “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”

Many other personalities, known for their leadership quality, knowledge of politics and the interplay of its different off shoots and who are internationally remembered today as heroes, have had their say on the role of the media, but we have zeroed in on a man, regarded as the bad boy of the music world, but a genius nevertheless, for a personality like Morrison, did not have much to gain or lose to speak out his mind on the media. “Whoever controls the media,” the opening four words of the seven worded phrase is extremely thought provoking and even in a democracy we need to study who  are the hands behind the policies of a media house ?

At the moment, it is primarily the market, ideology be damned. It is about TRP ratings and about how much revenue can be generated from advertisements. These are the forces which control the media and as Morrison observed, it is these forces who “controls the mind.”  A non-political personality, a musician by profession and a poet cum song writer par excellence, coming out with such an observation is worth pondering over, even if only for a few minutes. With this in mind, can we then say that those who control the media in Manipur, control the mind? More specifically can we say that AMWJU controls the media here and hence controls the mind of the citizens? It will take more than this commentary to find an apt answer, but the interests shown by some outside elements to influence AMWJU may be a significant indicator.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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