Indian Muslims always get a bad press and the blame is put on the community for not doing anything spectacular that may give them positive coverage. This is a hackneyed narrative that is going on since independence against the largest minority of the country. Muslims has been on the receiving end, searching souls, looking for faults within themselves which aren’t there because the fault lines are the media that has tarred the entire community with a black brush.

Why do Indian media detest Muslims so much? Before getting into the media coverage of the Muslims, one need to understand the nature and character of Indian media and the role it plays in shaping the society.

One needs to begin the story from 1990s when the media got out of government control and the corporate cartels started controlling this communication network. There was a plethora of media outlets that sprung up in no time and all were controlled by the business establishments.

These corporates media establishments had twin objectives, one to make profit and second to be on the government side to protect their own larger business interests.

On the profit side, media has two sources of revenue, one subscription and other advertisement. The advertisement is dependent on the subscription and subscription is the readership or the viewership. So if the profit has to be made, advertisement has to be solicited and this can be only done if the subscription based is increased phenomenally.

And that’s where the content became the king in this business. The content is decided on the impact factor of the news that can fetch large subscription and as a result the corresponding revenue through the advertisement.

It’s here the negative news contents has a huge role to play because of its impact factor to enlist huge subscription and huge advertisement.  In this paradigm negative content related to Islam, Muslims, Islamic Jihad Kashmir and Pakistan are the most selling news items. This is because it generates a large number of subscriptions among the Hindu majority community and since it pertains to Muslims, they willy-nilly get sucked into this vortex.

The basic criterion of the media is to search stories that can have an impact factor to get large readership/viewership and that can translate into revenue generation. Such malpractice in the media is now going on for some time and has become a widespread phenomenon across the media platforms and all kind of media outlets subscribe to this journalistic model to get good financial returns.

The negative profiling of the Muslims in media normally runs stories on; Islamic Jihad, love-jihad, nikah halala, triple talaq, Muslim personal law, beef eating, Tablighi jamaat, besides usual stuff like anti- Kashmir, anti- Pakistan to fetch huge subscription and advertisements.

There are other reasons why Muslims get a bad press in India. Ever since the incumbent government has come to power in 2014, there is a well-planned and finely crafted political project to increase anti-Muslim environment in the country. This is to gain political benefit and here media’s help is sought to execute such game plan.

As a result, Indian media is now reduced to government propaganda machinery. Anything that a devious mind can conjure against Muslims is fabricated and blown up out of proportion by the Indian media. This is to create a panic among majority community that may lead them to hate Muslims, and at the same time instill fear among the Muslim community for being targeted through communal violence.  This serves well the government’s narrative that Muslim bashing by the media will consolidate the Hindu vote bank.

Since anti-Muslim narrative has all the juice and pulp fiction to regiment the majority community, majority of the media outlets have teamed up together with an open display of bigotry abuse and hatred against the Indian Muslims. This also keeps them in the good books of the government as it helps in promoting the Hindutva agenda which is essential for the political survival of the ruling dispensation.

The Cobrapost.com expose in 2018, brings true picture of media- Hinduvta collaboration to communalize the society for political gains. The undercover agents of the cobra-post website approached the top media houses and offered them huge sum of money to publish/ broadcast Hindutva contents for communalize the society to gain political mileage for the ruling party. The expose revealed that all the media houses agreed to engage in campaigns to induce communal discord in the society and were willing to polarize the society on communal lines, so that it can fetch political dividends.

The media coverage of Tablighi Jamaat members stuck at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz in the last week of the March is a classic example of media government collaboration in building hate Muslim campaign. Instead of lambasting the government for not testing the foreign Tablighi members at the airport, the media went hammer and tongs attacking the Tablighi Jamaat and the Muslims holding them responsible for bringing the corona virus in the country.

What could have been a story directed against government’s inefficiency to make efforts to contain the virus at the entry point, a slander campaign against a particular community was started in the media. The media instead of showing any sympathy towards the Tablighi Jamaat members’ ignorance of the presence of Corona virus i8n their midst attacked them of hiding as terrorists inside the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in New Delhi.

The media did not question the government why it did not evacuate the Markaz members when it knew its Corona linkage as early as March 18? Why it prolonged the evacuation to March 29? The media did not asked the government why it allowed congregation at the Hindu temples as late as March 20 and has been questioning the Markaz for organizing the congregation on earlier dates.

Instead of standing by the side of journalistic ethics, the media chose to demonize the Muslim community for the congregation organized by the Tablighi Jamat. It was a well thought out plan, where subscription, advertisements and building of government’s vote bank were all involved.

There was a pathological preoccupation and obsession with bigotry against Islam and Muslims in the India media in coverage of Tablighi Jamat news. This vociferous tirade against Muslims by the media made the Tablighi Markaz, synonym to Akal Thakat and some equated Maulana Saad with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Such media bashing of the Muslims lead to a huge fall out at the societal level. It is for the acts of the Tablighi Jamat in Delhi, Muslims all over the country were targeted, abused assaulted on streets at several places in India. Many BJP legislators openly asked Hindus to boycott Muslim vegetable vendors and not allow them to enter their locality.  Such blatant stoking of communal polarization was condoned by the media attacks that conveniently ignored reporting the injustices being done to the Muslims.

The negative profiling of the Muslims is assiduously done to create a sense of unity within the Hindu community for political millage. It is being done to create maximum impact on the readers and viewers mind. These were done with an eye on ‘us vs them’ elixir, the magical political formula that wins election.

The media is a party to the execution to such well thought out political plan. The strategy is to develop a common enemy in name of Muslims and to foment a feeling of insecurity among the Hindu elements so that the ruling party’s becomes their savior and their vote bank is protected.

In doing so, the media knew it well the impact factor of the anti-Muslim news story and the value of such negative reportage can make them rich.  While doing so media also very well knows that Muslim side do not have any wherewithal to resist such attack against them. This is because the organs of government that can come to the Muslims rescue are pro government and since the anti-Muslim propaganda will give political benefit to the ruling government, they watch the media’s blatant display of hatred against the Muslims.

This is a wake-up call for the Muslims in India to rise up against the media and government’s collaborative efforts to give them bad press.  In the battle against the ‘Godi media,’ Muslims have to stand up, unite and forge alliances to launch media projects in the country. In the age of TV media, social media, and whats-app networking groups any such fight cannot take place till the Muslim community do not have their own media.

But so far, Muslims have miserably have failed to set up any strong media platform to counter such humiliation by the so called ‘Godi media.’ It is high time for the Indian Muslims to come forward to create elite group of like minded people who can respond to the anti-Muslim propaganda done by so called ‘Godi media.’

The Muslim elite group and the like minded non-Muslims may sit in conjugation, and confabulate and chalk out plans how to increase their share in the media market of India.

There is need Muslims with resources can join hand to set up a major media house and respond to the anti-Muslim hate mongers media outlets. There are problems in doing so, but there is a space in which Muslim-owed media can still operate in the country.

If such media outlet is professionally run by the trailblazers of truth and investigative journalists, such a media platform will definitely make an honest and meaningful impact on the Indian society.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com


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