Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Right to no Information

The Right to Information is a fundamental right in most countries. Freedom of the press is a cherished goal. All very good.  But I think its now time to have a Right to NOT have information. I write this even though I have witnessed at close quarters for three years, the perils of such an idea.

Take the case of the story of the idiot in Florida who wanted to burn the Koran, which is the trigger for my post today. He is an irrelevant nobody  who perhaps has a dozen imbeciles who go to his "church".  Suddenly he has become a celebrity and has been interviewed and reported all over the world. And equal imbeciles in some corner of the world, who can't even point to Florida on the map demonstrate and threaten violence against America. That's reported on too. News has been "created" where none should have existed. With potentially dangerous consequences. The world would have been a better place if the worthy in Florida had been royally ignored.

A week ago, there was the tragic case of a mental case taking hostages in a bus in the Philippines. The media descended like a swarm of locusts on the scene and started reporting live. Each channel shrilly trying to outdo the other. The police planned an assault to free the hostages. Every preparation for this was broadcast live in graphic detail including the position of the snipers. The only problem was that the hijacker was watching all this on the TV inside the bus. Negotiators couldn't reach the hijacker once because he was busy giving an interview to a TV station on his mobile phone. End result - the attempt to storm failed and a disastrous ending with many deaths.

Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is reportedly so. Therefore it makes sense for man to bite dog to gain his moment in the sun. All too many people are trying to bite the dog in order to get themselves into the papers. And the media is willing to provide the dog, sharpen the man's teeth, provide a cushion to kneel on for the act and are even prepared to pay him for the privilege of filming him sink his sorry teeth.

In a different way, the Right to Information Act in India is a similar problem. It was enacted in India a little while ago, to provide transparency about the government - governments should not be allowed to bury their activities under the cloak of secrecy. Many democracies have similar rights enshrined. Noble intentions. But the consequences are predictable. There is a huge number of people who have nothing else to do. Their pastime is to request all sorts of information under the Act. What is the weight of the the Minister's mother in law ? How many times did his dog poop on the carpet ? What was the water consumption in his house ? A bureaucracy has been created to cater to such requests for information. My tax payer rupees to amuse the retired, senile who has nothing else to do ? Thank you very much.


I strongly feel the need for a Right to NO Information Act !

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

nyayapadi "right to information Dont act" nu thana solanum :D news mediaku first oru censor vaikanum...ivanunga imsai thaangala...

ambulisamma said...

Right to Info is a double edged sword,for some its definitely sensible and useful,but still am laughing at those minister list,you have posted.

Ramesh said...

@Gils - The media reflects our tastes gilsu. If we stop reading or watching trash, they'll stop putting it out. I'm therefore not watching the allegedly famous newsreader in CNN IBN who you were all drooling about and whose name I have entirely forgotten !

@AA - Double edged sword indeed. We are drowning in bad news.

Anonymous said...

baaas..antha ammani vantha news paakarathoda seri..kaathula ethuvum vizhaathu :)

Deepa said...

Sensationalism is the order of these times. The ones who really like to looks at news that matters to them and really affects them are incredibly outnumbered. Maybe internet can really take charge from here. 'coz I've realized, when I really want to look for some credible information, I hunt it on the net myself, rather than relying on the News on TV.

News in India- lesser said the better!

sandhya sriram said...

there was an episode on how a politician's son who married on a tv show had some fight with his wife. one of the channels published a talk forum where some five people came and spoke about this - more important topic than probably global warming

why do we watch these channels and give them the power of trp to eat the share of other important voice. we are to blame for this.

a sunday post for sure - but lil serious this time :-)

zeno said...

Well, thats why they say ignorance is bliss!
Lots of people watching or attending doesn't means people care or give respect. For an election meeting by an actor, there could be lots of people who turn out to watch the actor may not vote for the party supported by the author. I do watch vijay, vijaykanth movies a lot of em, doesnt means i do approve of their movies!

and for all those who trash Indian journalism, check out wat Tina Brown, the Former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor has to say on Indian Journalism
http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/09/tina_brown_young_journalists_s.html

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - TV news in India has really deteriorated in quality - here's a case of competition affecting quality. When there was only NDTV, it was better I think.

@Sandhya - Yes, it accurately reflects what the public wants. Alas, only bad news sells

@zeno - That's true. But viewership is all that counts in business because that's what brings in the money. It is true that Indian journalists are outstanding. The press is still OK, but TV - Ugh !!

Vishal said...

It is really shocking to witness such acts of imbecility. Wonder why only flip side of any good proposition is picked up by many people and a whole lot of propaganda created around this.

I had the same example in mind that is mentioned by Sandhya above. Another worthless propanga that has been created over last 5-6 years is the coverage given to "Ms. Pubilicity Queen".

J said...

You should stick with the BBC :) I had to listen to dome snide remarks from some salesperson for the local newspaper because I told her I already had a subscription to the New York Times and didn't need a local paper - imagine reading an Arizona newspaper!!

Ramesh said...

@ Vishal - We've become a culture craving for titillation - the media is just providing a service to cater to this craving. Alas !

@J - Yes, I should stick to the BBC. Btw - they have newspapers in Arizona ?? :)

J said...

Yeah Yeah! Go ahead and rub it in - I have moved to the boonies :)

Syed Aleem said...

I not in complete agreement with your thoughts on this subject. All the political parties who are secular, non-secular, communists everyone tried all possible methods not to have RTI. Very few countries have this RTI & India is one among them. RTI is being used to exploit many people but it has also served its purpose. Today we learn so many things from RTI & it is an eye opener.
Except the last para on RTI, the other information is not revalant to RTI as well.

Ramesh said...

@Aleem - Cannunderstand your point of view. The RTI has done more good than harm of course. My lazy Sunday rant was against its misuse.

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