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Media

Neel Madhav and Alishan Jafri Win IPI-India Award for Excellence in Journalism in 'The Caravan'

Their story, titled 'Clicks and Bait', exposed how a group of YouTubers were setting the agenda for television debates and creating bulk content for certain political parties.

New Delhi: Freelance journalists Neel Madhav and Alishan Jafri were awarded the IPI-India Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2023, for their investigative piece published in The Caravan magazine.

Their story, titled Clicks and Bait, exposed how a group of YouTubers were setting the agenda for television debates and creating bulk content for certain political parties.

The jury, led by Justice Madan B. Lokur and including prominent figures like Riyad Mathew and Shobhaa De, recognised the duo for uncovering the digital ecosystem that disseminates divisive narratives.

The journalists highlighted how individuals appeared in various roles across videos to promote specific political agendas, illustrating a symbiotic relationship between YouTubers and political entities.

“In a lot of cases, the same individual appeared in different roles in videos pushing a particular political narrative. It is a symbiotic relationship wherein the YouTubers are earning a lot of money and the political parties get a lot of propaganda content,” said the two winners.

The Week quoted Justice Lokur, who presided over the function, as saying: “Over the last few years, we have had an overdose of hate. In most instances, it was restricted to hate speech, but soon the venom became more poisonous and resulted in violence against innocent persons, including youngsters. In the absence of any restrictive or coercive action by the police, vigilante groups got emboldened and the consequence was an outbreak of lynching.”

He also pointed out that an unintended consequence of the Supreme Court giving directions on the matter is “that data about lynching vanished from the public domain, and the National Crime Records Bureau stopped collecting data on lynching.”

Eminent jurist F.S. Nariman, while presenting the award, expressed concern over the decline of press freedom in India.

“We are past the age of free speech and entering another age – an age of thought control. You will say what thought-control prompts you to say. It is a serious problem,” he said, after watching a video made by the two award-winning scribes on how they exposed rackets that were making fake videos and spreading hate.

“The reason for India’s drop in the world press freedom index is that governments at the Centre or state operate in a manner that much of the media are compelled to look over their shoulder to see if government officials are smiling at them. The condition is not at all suited for a free press,” said Nariman.