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True journalism – triumph of art over artifice

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Today, a true journalist has more challenging and demanding responsibility. He has to filter information not only from the taboos of authority but also from the false malware of mainstream media in order to portray a real social picture of the society.

By: Javeed Ahmad Raina

Journalism, as a professional art is very challenging but a pious mission. It is associated with writing, editing and reporting to the print or electronic media. The purpose of fair journalism like other fine arts is to reflect the true image of a social reality.

However, the honest reflection of reality depends upon the intention and neutrality of the artist. Every artist has to shut eyes in order to observe through creative courage, the multifacet reality of an object. Journalism can be in print, broadcast or digital mediums, mostly making candid use of pen, paper and camera.

Photography, one of the art form is the display of camera work by a cameraman to replicate an event or chain of events into a pictorial functional unity. A camera is a manual to the mental worker, a mirror to the mind and a listener and colleague to the artist. It is always alert, awake and vigilant, unless the cameraman wants otherwise. A camera takes picture on the command of cameraman.

Between the period of flash and picture, the artist is born, holding art in one hand, and the artifice in another. The objective camera therefore, dissects artist into two selves- subjective self and disinterested being. As long as subjective self overpowers the camera, so long images artifice reality into deception, but as far as disinterested being captures the caption, the images disclose an inherent truth of a social reality.

Thus, the aim of journalism like other forms of creative art should be what T.S Eliot calls disinterested endevour to learn and propagate the best. This goal is not achieved by each and every artist, until the artist completely surrenders before the art. The desperate journalist either succumbs to the outside pressure or submits self before the object. The former case produces a proselytizing artefact or a false copy of reality, while the latter affirms an objective and realistic social reality. Hence, a picture, a report or a piece of painting, either reflects the inherent accuracy of an object or an inverted image of social reality, depending on the honesty and independence of the artist.

In the same way, contemporary journalism either makes use of camera or a pen by disinterested self in order to provide unfeigned and authentic record of events or employs what Marx calls camera-obscura with self interest to picture a false picture of a social reality for some pejorative purpose. The first case unveils facts by an objective, independent and unbiased journalism and the second case presents false, deceitful and fabricated information.

Since, post-truth era is under the continuous surveillance of what Marx calls ‘ideology’ and Luis Althusser names ‘ideological state apparatus’, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish the truth of a reality from the surrounding inverted images of social reality. It is at this stage that a neutral journalist bears the burden of holding a true mirror upto the nature.

An independent journalism, whether through photography or any other form, is one such enterprise that involves utmost degree of honesty, patience and unbiased observation or opinion in the form of texts, images, visuals or captions. The free and fair journalism reflects the truth and beauty of an object without any ethnocentric bias or subjective prejudice. The art of journalism is similar to what Herbert Reed felt for literature. According to him, art is an instrument for tilling the human psyche that it may continue to yield a harvest of vital beauty.

Similarly, noblest art, according to Aristotle, appeals both to the intellect as well as to the feelings. These observations apply to all those artisans who are on their way to represent life in its true and pure colours.

Feature photography, the art of capturing a real picture of an event, situation or an object, depends on the creative, critical and fair-minded endevour of the artist in order to make an image appear true to life.

According to T.S Eliot, an artist should act like a catalyst. The more perfect the artist, the more separate in him will be the man who creates and the mind which suffers. But, when artist’s self or political mentality enters into the artistic object, it becomes a perfect tool for exploitation. This kind of art distorts self sustaining reality of the ontological artistic being, making it perpetual source of deceit and deception. It is here a diversion between true art and artificial artifice surfaces. Since, art gives voice to those who are otherwise silenced; it should be impersonally devoted to paint reality in order to become a beacon of hope.

The fair journalism of the country is currently under the siege of authority. In these harsh times, when journos are booked for alleged anti-national remarks or posts on social media, it becomes very difficult to report the actual ground situation. Today, a true journalist has more challenging and demanding responsibility. He has to filter information not only from the taboos of authority but also from the false malware of mainstream media in order to portray a real social picture of the society.

But, despite all these hurdles, many journos of the country work day and night to promote free flow of unbiased information. The recent case of such self-less synthesis is exhibited by the group of Associate Press photographers, Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand. These journalists have been tilling not only the layers of their own psyche but, also the malware of falsehood from their counterparts to unfold a true picture of Kashmir condition before the world. It is these acts of awakening and rigorous scanning from the taboos of authority that they have been able to reflect truth from the clutches of densely shaded falsehood.

The joint Pulitzer Prize winner journalists proved Aristotelian maxim that noblest art appeals to intellect as well as to the feelings. They aroused the conscience of the world which was largely beguiled by one-sided fabricated narratives. These journalists in fact united in their pictures what Immanuel Kant says ‘the act of the good, the beautiful and the truth, to defeat the mighty towers of deceit and falsehood’. They bravely brazed the barren valley to capture the actual scenes of devastation. The captions from their camera revealed the real face of dethroned Kashmir. Their 2020 Pulitzer Prize reflects a victory of fair and fearless journalism.

The sporadic reportage of these three journalists in turbulent Kashmir may not dismantle what Audre Lorde refers ‘master’s house’, but this kind of journalism has certainly opened up a space for other journos to align with truth and beat one-sided false narratives. Their vigilant camera overshadowed the camera-obscura. It also weakened the surveillance of state apparatus by updating world about the garrison governance in conflict-stricken Kashmir. A free and fearless art finally conquers the forces of deceit and falsehood. The recognition and honour for their excellent reporting is the symbolic triumph of true art over the artificial artifices.

Postscript: The beautiful, which is perhaps inseparable from art, is not after all tied to the subject, but to the pictorial representation. In this way and in no other does art overcome the ugly without avoiding it — Paul Klee

  • (Javeed Ahmad Raina is a school teacher and can be mailed at: javeedahmadraina44@gmail.com)

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