JIH President, Syed Sadatullah Husaini urges media to self introspect and address economic disparity, communal hatred, and erosion of democratic institutions

April 4, 2024

New Delhi: While voicing grave concern over the alarming economic inequality, communal hatred, and the erosion of democratic institutions in the country, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) President Syed Sadatullah Husaini has appealed to media fraternity for self-introspection and upholding principles and values.

Addressing a special Iftar gathering for journalists and media persons at the JIH headquarters here recently, Mr. Husaini emphasized the importance of self-introspection and media responsibility in the context of present communal atmosphere of the country.

Emphasizing the importance of self-reflection during the holy month of Ramadan, the JIH chief, citing Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), highlighted that prayers and fasting must be accompanied by introspection. Stressing that introspection is crucial for the acceptance of fasts, he explained the dual purpose of Ramadan as outlined in the Quran: achieving Taqwa (God-consciousness) and internalizing positive values.

The JIH President urged individuals, regardless of religious affiliation or fasting observance, to engage in introspection, emphasizing the need for all segments of society to fulfill their responsibilities and uphold principles and values.

Turning his attention to the media, the JIH President described it as the conscience of society, stating that a free media serves as a barometer of societal freedom. He invoked George Orwell’s definition of journalism as printing what others do not want printed, distinguishing true journalism from mere public relations. “The freedom of the media is a protector of a free society,” he asserted, emphasizing that a free media illuminates reality, exposes hidden truths, amplifies the voices of the voiceless, and holds the powerful accountable. Quoting George Orwell, the JIH leader challenged the media fraternity to introspect whether they are practicing true journalism or merely engaging in public relations for the powerful.

Mr. Husaini’s speech threw light on three critical issues confronting the nation: economic inequality, communal hatred, and the erosion of democratic institutions.

Expressing concern over three critical issues plaguing India, the JIH leader first highlighted the alarming economic inequality, where a small fraction of the population controls a disproportionate amount of wealth. Citing a recent report by ASSFORM, he revealed the staggering statistic that the richest 1% of the population now controls 40% of the country’s wealth, while half of the population possesses a mere 3% of the wealth. “There has never been such economic inequality in our country according to known history,” The JIH President lamented, adding that 75% of the wealth generated in the last year has been concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 1%.

Contrasting this stark economic disparity with the nation’s dismal performance on the Global Hunger Index, the JIH chief highlighted that the situation of hunger in India is worse than that of its neighbours and even some poorest African nations like Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and Chad.

The second major issue, Mr. Husaini addressed, was the alarming rise of communalism, hatred, and the “poison of communalism” that has brought the country to the brink of a “volcanic mountain.” He decried the flood of hatred on social media and the mainstream media’s engagement in fanning the flames of communal passion and hatred. The JIH leader warned that hate has become a shortcut to winning elections, with some prominent leaders, MPs, MLAs, ministers, and chief ministers actively spreading hatred through political speeches, textbooks, films, and the educational system. “Now this poison of hatred is becoming common even among small children, resulting in an increase in hate crimes everywhere,” he cautioned. He condemned the misuse of hatred for political gains and warned against the institutionalization of communal biases, which threaten the country’s social fabric.

The third issue highlighted by the JIH chief was the downfall of democratic institutions, which he said were painstakingly built through great sacrifices and hard work. Mr. Husaini addressed the erosion of democratic institutions, noting their susceptibility to political manipulation and selective enforcement. “Now these institutions are rapidly losing their liberty,” he stated, pointing to the selective implementation of laws, such as the bulldozer actions or ‘justice’, the denial of bail to CAA protesters for years, and the institutionalization of hatred and communalism.

The JIH President criticized the concentration of power and the use of state agencies to silence dissent, a trend that signals a departure from democratic principles. He expressed specific concerns about the misuse of agencies like the CBI and ED to suppress opposition voices, as well as the questionable appointments and operations of the Election Commission.

Addressing the media fraternity directly, the JIH leader questioned their role in covering these critical issues facing the nation. “Is it not the responsibility of the media to bring these issues into public discourse?” he asked, expressing skepticism about the national media’s role as a spokesperson for those in power rather than amplifying the voices of the voiceless.

Mr. Husaini accused the national media of aligning with those in power, contributing to the decline of press freedom in India as reflected in global rankings. Citing the World Press Index report, he lamented that India’s press freedom index has been falling every year for the last decade, with the country’s rank plummeting from 138 in 2014 to 161 out of 180 countries in the latest report. “The global community is comparing India with countries like Vietnam, North Korea, Myanmar, Syria, etc.,” he said, adding, “What could be a bigger shame than this for a democratic country?”

The JIH chief acknowledged the existence of brave and courageous journalists in the country who are fulfilling their responsibilities and speaking the truth despite facing difficulties. He particularly praised the efforts of journalists working in the digital media, and saluted them as “the real heroes of this country, in the history of the country.”

Concluding his speech with a prayer for the betterment of the nation’s condition, the JIH President urged the media to engage in self-introspection and pay attention to its real responsibilities. “All this is a temporary thing, but those who live according to their values, according to their principles, and fulfill their responsibilities, the country will remember them, the history will remember them,” he added.

The JIH President’s speech reminded the gathering about the challenges facing the nation and the crucial role of the media in upholding democratic values, addressing economic inequality, and combating the scourge of communal hatred.

Over a hundred journalists and media crews from various national media outlets, including channels, newspapers, and digital platforms, attended the Iftar gathering. They shared the dinner after breaking the fast with JIH leaders and officials.

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