Through the Looking-Glass

The Readers’ Editor writes: must ensure reports critical of the government are rigorous

The media must question the government at all levels. But since the Modi regime swept into office, it seems to have lost its voice.

A complaint that some readers of occasionally make is that the publication is anti-Narendra Modi government. Most recently on October 8, a couple of readers accused of consistently going overboard in its criticism of the government. One said there was a need for “constructive criticism” alongside “healthy praise”, and the other said there was a focus only on criticism without highlighting any of the government’s achievements.

I am not surprised that there is such a view. I say that not because I think has gone overboard in its criticism but because these days, any criticism of the government anywhere in the media stands out because there is so little of it.

Since 2014, ever since the Modi government swept into office, the media as a whole seems to have lost its voice. Newspapers (in English and the Indian languages), magazines and television have all forgotten that they are supposed to be part of an independent institution that speaks truth to power. Social media has, of course, been dominated by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the trolls among them do not allow any discussion. (The situation has changed a bit in recent months though.)

The reasons for this loss of independence are somewhat puzzling. There has been no formal censorship as during the Emergency of 1975-1977, so there was no formal pressure on the media to bend before the government. Yet, a media that was so forceful in its criticism of the United Progressive Alliance government, its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and the Congress went into a slumber immediately after the 2014 parliamentary elections.

In awe of the government

It was not a brief honeymoon period for the government that saw the media go all quiet. It seemed like a traditional marriage of inequality between the government and the media: the government showed no respect for the media, but the media chose to be permanently in awe of the government.

So we are now in a situation where television news channels are more interested in demolishing the Opposition than in holding the government accountable and newspapers have lost their sense of proportion in swallowing what the government says. There certainly are exceptions. A small band of journalists and a few small publications working in towns as well as in the cities have not been afraid of showing us what journalism is supposed to be. Gauri Lankesh spoke truth to power and she was made to suffer the most extreme of consequences.

However, the large print and television empires that have more clout and, therefore, cannot be pushed aside easily seem to retreat very easily. It would seem that fear of the state flexing its muscles and concern about loss of advertising revenue is enough to make them forget their journalism.

The situation is slightly better online where the publications unlike print do not carry any baggage and unlike television are more conscious of journalistic proprieties. This is where digital news publications like and The Wire stand apart.

A duty to question

The media does have many roles to perform. These include dissemination of information, educating its audiences and even offering entertainment. But in a democracy, its core agenda is that of a watchdog. It is supposed to be the “Fourth Estate”, standing apart from the three estates of the legislature, executive and judiciary.

The media’s main role is to be an adversary. It has to question the government at all levels, pick holes and find fault. Its job is not to offer praise, even occasionally. A media that is conscious of its responsibilities must be a thorn in the flesh of the state.

We are far from being in that situation. So when a few publications do stand up and raise their voices, we must welcome them rather than complain that they are not balancing their criticism with praise. There is uncritical praise aplenty in the media. There is more to come as the government works overtime to influence public opinion through planted op-eds, and through private consultancies to influence opinion on social media in one direction – as this article on, you guessed right, pointed out two weeks ago.

Since on one side we are being bombarded by official handouts and articles planted by the government and on the other we have a studied silence, the few brave media outlets who are full-throated in their criticism need the support of their readers.

Responsible criticism

This does not mean that anything goes, or that any article that criticises the government automatically qualifies for publication. The standards of accuracy and verification that generally apply are equally, if not more, applicable to critical reporting. (It is a different matter that the many stories on television that stir up hate and abuse would fail to meet even the weakest of journalistic standards.)

It is a difficult time world-wide for journalism. In the West, newspapers were first hit by falling advertisements and then a decline in readership. Later, with the birth of “citizen journalism” and the arrival of social media, traditional journalism seemed to lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the old audiences. To make matters worse, Facebook and Google have eaten up most of the advertising revenue and are now offering news as well. And we have United States President Donald Trump who has the same contempt for the media that the government of India currently has.

The one important difference is that while the media in the United States gave Trump a free pass during the 2016 presidential elections, they now go at him hammer and tongs every day. This is very, very different from India, where the media is now the meekest of lambs.

So, when a publication like chooses to criticise the government, we should be somewhat relieved that, yes, there are still institutions that have not forgotten what journalists are supposed to do – even if they are abused on social media, and even by ministerial members of the government, as presstitutes. More power to their critical reporting and analysis. And there is no need, I would say, for any attempt at balance with a showering of praise on the government.

However, has not forgotten its other functions of disseminating information and educating its readers. While it did recently run a four-part series on how the government’s pilot experiments ahead of a nation-wide reform of the fertiliser subsidy regime have failed, it has also published an article that favourably reports on an experiment by the government of Madhya Pradesh (under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party) to radically recast the agricultural procurement regime.

So I would say that needs to continue what it is doing. All that it has to do is to ensure that its reporting – especially the critical pieces – adhere to rigorous standards and the opinion pieces too do not take short-cuts in expressing a point of view.

Readers can contact the Readers’ Editor at

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.


So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.