Senior journalist Ravish Kumar, who is named as the winner of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award, on Friday claimed that journalists are working in an atmosphere of fear, and neutral journalism is unlikely to survive as media is dependent on corporate finances in India. A well-known journalist, Kumar, 44, a senior executive editor with NDTV India, is among five winners of the Asia's prestigious award.
The award citation said: "In a media environment threatened by an interventionist state, toxic with jingoist partisans, trolls and purveyors of 'fake news,' and where the competition for market ratings has put the premium on 'media personalities,' 'tabloidisation,' and audience-pandering sensationalism, Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice."
After the announcement of the award, Kumar participated in a live chat and while responding to a question alleged that a majority of the media is fuelling communalism and divide.
He also said it is "very difficult" for real and neutral media to survive because media needs corporate finances and therefore, it is difficult for it to remain neutral.
"Efforts are being made to raise funds and create a neutral base for the media but at the end of the day mainstream media has to be made professional. Till mainstream media will not be neutral and professional, and will not leave propaganda, communalism, we will not be able to do it (make media neutral)," he said.
"There is more control on the media now. That is why this fight is being fought only by a few institutions and journalists. But this should not be the case, it should also be a fight of big institutions. So, it is not easy for neutral journalism will survive," said Kumar, who has been critical of the government over various issues and has also been threatened and targeted by right-wing trolls.
To another question about how the media can help overcome hate and discrimination, Kumar said the media will not do it because it is the media that is propagating Hindu-Muslim hate.
"One should keep in mind that due to this communalism which is being presented in the garb of nationalism, the biggest loss will be suffered by the majority community because when the process of communalisation will move forward, then their progress will be hampered," he argued.
"By keeping a lot of hatred and biases inside you, you cannot be creative. When you are not creative you cannot do good business, create business opportunities, you cannot do good work," he asserted.
Kumar alleged that by and large the role played by the media has been of spreading communalism and this trend was very dangerous.
On the issue of declining standards of journalism in the last few years, Kumar said the structure of reporting has ended in the newsroom.
"An atmosphere of fear has been created and now hardly any reporter gets news from ministries. Even if he gets it, editor will be scared to run it. The situation is such that everyone is scared," he said.
Giving a word of advice to those who troll him, he said instead of working in IT cells, they should become leaders if they are interested in politics.
Kumar, born in Jitwarpur village in Bihar, joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV) in 1996 and worked his way up from being a field reporter.
After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel - NDTV India - aimed at the country's 422 million Hindi speakers, he was given his own daily show, "Prime Time".
The programme "deals with real-life, under-reported problems of ordinary people", the citation of the award said.
"If you have become the voice of the people, you are a journalist," it said.