An international two-day media forum here has deliberated several significant issues facing the media industry at present.The opening day of The Media Rumble, organised by Newslaundry and Teamwork Arts, saw sessions on a wide range of subjects and journalists like Maria Ressa, Christopher Lydon, Raju Narisetti and Francesca Panetta participating in thought-provoking sessions that were held across multiple venues at the India Habitat Centre here.
In the inaugural session, Newslaundry founder Madhu Trehan spoke about viewing technology in news through the ruthless lens of responsibility, to which Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, said that journalism is at the forefront of war and that journalists hold the strength of democracy in the palm of their hands. They ended on a sombre note mentioning the magnitude of the task ahead for responsible and fearless journalism.
The key highlight of the first day of the media forum was a session titled "Journalism Resisting and Surviving" that had the intrepid Maria Ressa, former lead investigative reporter for CNN and CEO of Rappler, an online news platform which exposes fake news, questions government statistics and propaganda, and exposes a systematic attack on free speech via social media in conversation with Hartosh Bal, Political Editor at The Caravan. Ressa candidly spoke about her work and how she has been hounded by a state-backed online hate machine, slapped with six different criminal investigations, accused of tax evasion, and receives 90 hate messages per hour to this day.
"And all this, for calling out the government," she said. The use of social media by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's government in the Phillipines in changing the public's perception of reality is its most powerful tool, said Ressa citing the establishment's modus operandi -- "using free speech to silence free speech". On social media, where algorithms celebrate popularity over veracity and where the loudest voice wins, the worry "that the biggest megaphone lies with the state" was pointed out.
"Take the fracture lines of society and hit it with a hammer," Ressa said, "is the motto of all populist governments today", who distort public perception and dilute focus on real issues like increasing corruption, state-sponsored violence and rampant inequality. Ressa further added that democracy was in danger and reminded the gathering of journalists of the need to continue fighting "the good fight".