Why a global news network from India Photograph: (WION)
It is time for us journalists to look beyond nationality, religion, ethnicity and language
When you begin your life as a journalist, all you hope to do is tell the stories honestly. You make sure that your stories bring justice and they try and build an egalitarian society of sorts. Many journalists are accused of being left of centre. But the answer is very clear. A journalist strives to give a voice to the unheard. So, they have no choice but to be left of centre.
Biased story selection
It was many years after I started out as a journalist that I entered into the arena of international journalism. I traversed the conflict zones of the world and also covered South Asia for international networks. The stories were myopic and many times their selection was biased.
I was in Iraq and covering a story of a mother who was standing outside a mortuary weeping on her 35-year-old son’s dead body. She was complaining that her son’s nails had been pulled out. The paperwork said that he had died of a heart attack. He was one of the first casualties that had surfaced from what later became the infamous prison — Abu Ghraib. When we filed the story, there was resistance from the other Western journalists. They said that how could we believe this Iraqi mother, she could very well be lying. The environment stayed tense in the newsroom. In the end, we prevailed and told the story but I am sure not too many shows played it out.
The only stories that made to the forefront were about poverty, manual scavenging or the monkeys. I knew that I couldn’t work in a myopic news environment; I had to tell the stories that were nuanced and looked at all sides of a society or societies.
Global news neutrality
For decades, media has been pushing the agenda of a country or a group of countries. Primarily Western news outlets have occupied that space and they push their viewpoint. They try and come as close possible to an "unbiased" approach. But they are far removed from reality as they are unable to decipher the intricacies involved. For an average well-travelled South Asian, the US is as much home as the UK. The South Asian community with its ability to assimilate and amalgamate has been able to call many parts of the world its home. Its population size is almost two billion, around 1/3rd of humanity.
For a solid journalism network, being unbiased is not a tall order. We understand the shooting in Milwaukee as well as we understand the bomb blast in Balochistan. We have created a team of people from all parts of the world to be able to comprehend the intricacies of the world.
As journalists, we have to continue to see the world as our own: one world. The successes and failures that we see are successes and failures of us as humanity. So why can’t we look beyond nationalities, religion, ethnicity or language? Why is our news like the present world, divided and jingoistic? In an ideal world a reporter has no nationality, they would traverse the world, tell the stories that need to be told, whether good, bad or ugly. The good needs to be looked at as a model to be replicated, the bad needs to be corrected, and the ugly needs to be clamped down as soon as you see it.
There isn’t a competition between nationalities and ethnicities as to who is doing better but rather an urge about how we are collaborating to achieve the goals of humanity.
Journalists are the eyes and ears of the world and they can become the ones that can help people to understand their own world better.
For this reason, the stories have to carry beyond the press releases, conferences, and studios. The stories have to be beyond the bickering of the rich and powerful. The stories have to be about people who are models of their society. The stories have to be about ideas that will help us lead better lives. The stories shouldn’t showcase a particular section as the best and everything else as subservient and less evolved in some ethnocentric way.
A news organisation like that would be a dream of a journalist. It is not just the repository of crimes and rapes and everything bad happening around us. The organisation also talks about the good things happening around us. It would be an avenue to highlight the bad but also never leaving out the amazing ones that can help change the stereotype and our world.
To create a global platform
The smallest things we cover can have a very large impact. An impact that can change people’s lives. I was in Iraq in 2003. Saddam was captured and I was reporting from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
I had gone to a human rights conference and met a man who had his son in tow, almost the age of my own son. The boy was limping and his mouth was not moving properly. I reached out to the father in my broken Arabic and started chatting with him through my translator. He told me that while his son was playing football, the cross firing began. A bullet hit his son and lodged in his son’s head. He went from pillar to post, requesting the Americans as well as the Iraqi military to help but to no avail.
I decided to tell his story to the world. A day after the story was aired, the Greek ambassador arrived in Baghdad and approached me in my hotel. He wanted to reach out to the boy and offer him a trip to Athens for surgery. The boy’s family was overjoyed. I am told that the boy is now living a happy and comfortable life.
News platforms must serve the people beyond the banal needs of the day. We, as journalists, at some level, have the responsibility to help people understand the environment they live in. Some people are left out of the growth cycle and they need to be made aware of how to make it through.
A news platform is about providing information to help create an informed world, a world where people can share and realise their potential. It is not a medium of hate or abuse. It is a civilised arena where we exchange ideas and make a sense of our environment. Indeed, there are times to ask tough questions, to help people re-think their own strategies. But it is not a medium to create adversarial monologues of opinionated jargon and exaggerations where truth is the casualty.
We are working to deliver an unbiased news network where people will be able to take pride in the phenomenal world that they live in and are able to learn from the successes and failures in general. As we launch the ‘World Is One News’ Network, we hope to share the stories and our journey with you.