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Letter from Tintin : Adventure of Journalism in India

Hello! My Name is Tintin. I hope you have heard of me. If not, then let me tell you something about myself. I am a cartoon character and I was created by a Belgian Cartoonist – Georges Prosper Remi, way back in 1929. He is also popularly known as Hergé. Does that strike a chord?

Recently, the popular Hollywood Movie Producer – Steven Spielberg produced a movie called the Adventures of Tintin which gained a lot of popularity worldwide.  It was a combination of three of my comic books – Red Rackham’s Treasure, The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws. Critics noted the Indiana Jonesy stunts in the movie. Boy, was that an ego boost!

Hergé created me in 1929 when I first appeared in a Belgian newspaper known as Le Petit Vingtième.(The Little Twentieth) The initial strips were in the French Language. My character gained popularity worldwide over the passing decades and copies of my books began to appear in other languages besides French.

You can imagine the popularity of Tintin comic books from the fact that more than 10 million copies of my books have been sold worldwide and continue to sell every year. There is also a museum dedicated to me outside the Belgian capital city of Brussels. Hergé created my stories in realistic settings. So in one comic book, I am dealing with smugglers from China, while the other depicted me in bringing out the true face of Communism in Russia.

As the years progressed, Tintin stories got more evolved – some involved fighting corrupt despots in South America, while I also enjoyed a trip to the moon! Those were the days, when the profession of Journalism was still uncorrupted. Yes, that is right – I am a reporter by Profession (if you did not guess till now) and a brave reporter at that. Maybe I sound like I am bragging, but I am not. I am just telling the truth.

I had the chance of fighting nasty criminals like Al Capone, the drug cartels in China and the notorious Rastapopoulos who dealt in the trafficking of black slaves. In my youth I did it all.

Back then, Journalism was meant to serve only one agenda – the truth and just the absolute truth. Recently, I undertook a world tour and visited a lot of countries as an undercover reporter. I visited India, amongst many other countries of course. I have only one thing to say about India – it is truly incredible.  I had visited India when I was the guest of the Maharajah of Gaipajama, but it was back in the old days.

Today’s India is completely different from the India in the 1930s. Today’s India has modern cities, with huge skyscrapers, excellent infrastructure and a lot more hustle and bustle. Today India is the fastest growing economy in the world and will soon over take countries like the UK and Germany in terms of economic growth. During my stay with India, I met with many prominent personalities. Of course, they did not really know who I was, including film-stars, politicians, police officers and of course members of my fraternity, too.

Every one of the person, who I met with, offered me great hospitality and made sure that I was totally comfortable. I realized, this is just the Indian way of treating their guests. I was especially impressed by the way the Indian journalists treated me. Their use of all the modern technology, their commitment to bring out the truth and expose the guilty, all began to reinforce my faith in the profession, anew. I was especially impressed by the way Social Media was used as a tool in journalism and how you, the people of India responded with vigour making use of the social media as a tool of change.

I too, started to follow social media quite vigorously. It is then I observed something.At first, I dismissed it as just a one-off event, a freak. Then I started noticing a regular trend, which was quite unsettling. If there was any breaking news, then all the news channels pounced on it like a pack of wolves. Everyone to be the first to claim it!

The second trend I observed was far more subtle and far less noticeable. The journalists had preferences and spun new angles around a story, even if it meant changing the facts! Lastly, the one thing which I noticed which was by far the most deadly; the journalists seemed to favour one political group or the other, which seemed apparent by glorification of political stunts like visiting rape victims, soldier’s families and so on.


However,  I wanted to see some proof.( Like all journalists would) So I created a list of all the Mainstream News channels in India. There were of-course a large number of channels which showed just regional news, but finally I created a list of 4 such Channels which claimed to be at the cutting edge of reporting in India. I then started watching these channels whenever a news story broke out in India.

As Luck would have it, there was a massive demonetization drive conducted by your government. Such things are common in the developed world to happen as a constant Endeavour to become cashless. I  jotted down my observations as per below:

  • One Media Channel claimed that people were dying in queues formed to withdraw money from banks
  • Another one claimed that though the situation was tough, people are happy with the move in general
  • Third Media channel claimed that the government is a monster for doing this
  • Finally Last Media Channel claimed that there are lines and there is some inconvenience to the people

I had to conclude that the Media and politicians seem to work in tandem and try to give out a story which suits their purpose and hence, by this logic the media is no longer a neutral institution. This practice has spread like a cancer in your country since this trend is quite evident in your regional news channels too!

Alas, no Chemotherapy can get rid of  this malignant, cancerous tumour I have one more conclusion. This conclusion concerns you – the average Indian citizen.

The wide spread prevalence of Social Media by everyone is very confusing. People take to the social media to immediately declare one’s guilt – as if they represent the judicial system themselves. There is a clear attempt to polarize the people using social media. I realize that people want social change, but the use of social media as a tool is not an end in itself, but rather a tool to achieve that end. People seem to be happy putting their video recording, audio recordings and what not, to merely gain their moment in the sun and well, this seems to be a universal phenomenon.  This video recording becomes famous than the actual issue and the issue is then forgotten.

Does this mean that there is no hope?  No, Sir, most definitely not! What if every Citizen tries to be a citizen journalist. Tries to stand up for the truth and only the truth? Can this be done? You, the citizen of India cannot see through this game being played by the powers that be and rise above it? Do you think before commenting on a particular issue and not be just done with it? Are you actually follow through your intentions with actual action?

I do not mean to preach, I ( Tintin ) am just a fictional character, of course. But you are real and have potential to take this country to far greater heights than just random social media use! I would like to leave everyone with this thought before I conclude – There are more important issues in your great country than the social media lets on. Ironically, Social Media can be used to bring about a positive change in society like exposing corruption, age old customs, social practices etc. From your friend Tintin, Here is a thought provoking quote for you to think about

“Journalism has changed tremendously because of the democratization of information. Anybody can put something up on the Internet. It’s harder and harder to find what the truth is”

Till we meet again – Au Revoir!

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