Published On:30 June 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

GUEST EDITORIAL: Are Muslim Journalists Cut-off from mainstream Media?

By Kaleem Kawaja

Reading India's mainstream English language newspapers and magazines, and viewing the electronic media one realizes that news reports and columns by Muslim journalists are rare. If we go by our population, the authors of about 10 percent or more of reports and columns should be Muslims. But in reality only about 1 % of reports and columns are authored by Muslims. At the national level there are just about half a dozen English language Muslim journalists whose reports appear in the national dailies. 

In the whole of India, 65 years after independence there are only two small English language biweekly newspaper (Milli Gazette, Madhyam) and three online electronic websites (Two Circles News, Indian Muslim Observer, Ummid.com) that are operated by the Muslim community. 

There are quite a few Urdu language newspapers that are operated by the Muslim community. But their readership is limited entirely to Muslims and generally they confine themselves to happenings in the Muslim community. Thus whatever is published in Urdu newspapers has hardly any chance of reaching mainstream India that comprises of a large number of secular Hindus.

That brings us to the question as to why there are so few English language Muslim journalists in India and why Muslim journalists are not writing for mainstream Indian media (Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Hindu, India Today, Sunday, IBN, NDTV etc).

A review of the few English language Muslim outlets that exist, indicates that these outlets spend most of their space in writing about Muslim community's complaints of injustice from the Indian government authorities, complaints against injustice to Muslims from Western governments, the rabid pronouncements of the extremist Hindu groups and coverage of personalities and events in other Muslim countries. Thus their readability for secular Hindus who may want to feel the pulse of India's Muslims, is very small; and there is very little material of national interest there that non-Muslims want to read in a newspaper, whether print or electronic.

The Urdu media aside from being in a language that Hindus can not read is also full of the internal politics of Muslim groups and individuals and the internecine conflicts of various Muslim religious leaders and sects. All in all their utility in communicating the community's issues and situation to mainstream India is almost non-existent.

The Indian mainstream media writes about the Muslim community only when major events happen, eg the recent UP and west Bengal elections where Muslim votes swung the election, or if a major Hindu-Muslim congflagration takes place, eg Gujarat genocide. That news too lasts just a few days. The coverage of the Muslim community's recent vociferous and continuing demands for implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations and reservation has received only infrequent coverage in the mainstream media. The reports on the Batla House conflagration and the plight of Azamgarh's Muslim youth lasted a few days and then disappeared.

A few Indian Muslim journalists write in some Arab newspapers like Arab News, Khaleej Times etc. But those reports almost always appear to be either about the social events of the NRI Muslims in those countries, or about the oil-rich Muslim countries, or about the past glory of Muslim nations in the centuries gone by, or writeups on global Muslim politics. Again, not much for non-Muslims who are looking to learn about the present state of affairs of the Muslims of India.

The question remains that if the Indian Muslim community has to bring improvement in its very backward condition, it has to influence the large number of secular Hindus and together with them the major political parties and the government. Journalists and media - print and electronic - are some of the major weapons in today's public relations war to change the policies of the Indian state. The first step is to change the perceptions of secular Hindus who are the majority of India's Hindu population about Muslims. If Muslims remain cutoff from mainstream Indian media, and remain preoccupied in our narrow world of complaints, internal politics, other Muslim countries, mutual appreciation etal; and if Muslim journalists' reports about the community's ground realities are not being published in adequate numbers in mainstream media, then we are missing a golden opportunity. We simply can not be happy talking about the past glory of Muslims, or the glory of oil-rich Muslim countries or complaining that the world is against us. Because communicating with and influencing India’s secular Hindus in a democracy and a country where Hindus are 80% of the population, is an essential need of our community’s national strategy. Indian Muslim journalists can fill this essential need of the community.

Thus it is incumbent for Muslim journalists in India to redouble their efforts to find a place in the mainstream English media more frequently. Only a handful of successful mainsteeam Muslim journalists like MJ Akbar, Saeed Naqvi, Seema Mustafa cannot do the job. Of course there is a big need for more quality English language Indian Muslim journalists who are in very short supply.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 30, 2012. Filed under , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on June 30, 2012. Filed under , , , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

1 comments for "GUEST EDITORIAL: Are Muslim Journalists Cut-off from mainstream Media?"

  1. Dear Kaleem Kawaja,

    Your article is only yelling about self drawn negative perception, there is hardly any solution and strategy. It needs to devise solution and stop complaining. Make ourselves strong and reduce reliance on others.

    By the way, did you forward this article to mainstream media TOI, HT .... for publishing. Try and give me a good news, you will get answer to your query .. This article will be published by media IMO and likes, prove me wrong.

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