The democrats have resurfaced in US politics by gaining full control over Congress in the mid-term poll. President Donald Trump is obviously in the back-foot, talking of the Republicans ‘negotiating’ with the Democrats on different issues, knowing he cannot run the country through the Senate alone. But his frustration and anger is vented on the CNN – the media wing, allegedly inclined towards the Democrats – when he comes down heavily on its White House correspondent whom he describes as a “rude and terrible person” and who, the President says, should not be working for the CNN.
President Trump is infamous for his ‘rudeness’ towards the media and after the mid-term polls it has become more pronounced. Both the parties – the Democrats and Republicans – have used the media for their political gains during the elections; but after the elections, they change their attitudes. President Barack Obama was more polished and avoided direct confrontation with the media. But President Trump is rather blunt in his behaviour towards the media. He not only chastises the CNN White House correspondent but orders the confiscation of his press card, which is a direct interference in somebody’s right to work. It was not just the White House correspondent of the CNN; he even threatened another CNN correspondent elsewhere, almost immediately after this incident, of confiscating his work pass. It reveals that it is not an individual dislike, but a well-orchestrated plan to demean the media.
This behaviour in a politician is nothing new. When they find the media uncomfortable, they try to rub them in the wrong side. The questions of Russian spying during the US election or the ‘caravan’ of immigrants from Mexico are disturbing ones for the President. The best way to avoid answering these questions is to shout them down. But they forget that the correspondent is just doing his duty – making the best use of the opportunity to urge a policy maker answer what the common man would like to know. We have seen this in India too – condemning the media persons as ‘pressitutes’ when all that they were doing was asking – sometimes awkward - questions.
With the advent of the social media, the fourth estate is already being accused of generating ‘fake news’, though the increasing number of researches reveal that the ‘source’ of fake news is ultimately the political parties. Obviously, it is not good times for the media. The respect is lost; and the credibility is fast draining out. Sometimes the editors are getting involved in extraneous – like ‘Me Too’ – controversies. Media badly needs a facelift now. But how?
If the Presidents and Prime Ministers take a biased view against the media, the task becomes difficult. They will have to realize that just like a carpenter or a policeman, the media person is just doing his job - and everyone has a right to do it freely. There are ways of hauling him up if he is going wrong – facing the regulators for example – but none can demean his work or stop him from what he is doing.
An editor works the scenes. It’s a skill which needs lots of hard work and patience. But the recent spurt of editors trying to be celebrities overnight – or even politicians - is a dangerous trend, sure to rebound sometime or other.
Media has a constitutional position in a democratic country. The Presidents or the Prime Ministers cannot meddle with it. Let the media do their job in peace.