A recent BBC Sunday Morning Live segment had a feature on interfaith marriage, calling on the opinions of people from all different faiths including Jagmeet Singh, a representative of the nonprofit organization Basics of Sikhi. Around 15 minutes into the segment, Singh interrupted to say, “I have to say, Sikhs in Punjab are being killed in Punjab and nobody’s reporting it. Please report it.” The move was not received well by the BBC spokesperson and Singh was removed from the panel by the time they returned from commercial break.
Sikh activists have been attempting to bring light to a media blackout that has been occurring in Punjab on the anti-Sikh violence. The violence was incited after an Indian police shot at Sikh protestors who were condemning the recent desecration of their holy books. The altercation left two people dead and many more injured, according to the Indian Express. The only three other stories from major news outlets at the time were by the BBC, all of which were in Hindi. In response to the violence, the Indian military was called in to take control of the violence. The government has also called for the media blackout, according to Huffington Post writer and assistant professor at Trinity University Simran Singh.
Jagmeet Singh called upon the attention of an act of incredibly sinister and chilling implications. Manipulating the media tends to be the cloak for grievous human rights violations. In this case, the Sikh communities think back to the anti-Sikh massacre of the 1980s which was also preceded with a media blackout. Cases like this should push you to think critically about what is reported in the media, and why. And although media manipulation may not be always used to cover up violence such as as this, it can definitely be used for smaller wrongs.
All media is developed around the agendas and biases of various involved members. Whether the information this media presents an accurate portrayal is up to your judgment. It’s always important to be very inquisitive about what the media is telling you — and even more so about what it isn’t telling you.
Here are some signs to look out for in the press: expressive word choice such as words like “radical,” “outbursts” and “riot.” Who are they choosing to interview? What kind of questions are they asking? Are they strangely focused on one aspect of the issue? Is the interviewee trying to say something that the reporter is interrupting? Does what the interviewee says contradict the headline? Does a report seem a bit off to you? Is the report saying someone “won the debate by a landslide” when you weren’t too impressed by it? Hold onto those feelings. They may be saying more than you think.