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Why Indian Journos Are Quitting the Gulf

On September 5, 2010

An interesting piece of commentary from The Guardian (UK) here about how journalism in the Gulf is losing its appeal for Indian journalists, who have traditionally been the backbone of the media industry in the region.

It's not just that the media is booming in India, or that the wages paid to journalists in the Gulf have failed to keep up with skyrocketing inflation, writes Hussain Ahmad. Indian journalists are leaving the region because of restrictions on the media. Among other things, they are unable to report on abuses of Southasian migrant workers, which some commentators have seen as a failing on their part:

According to Ahmad:

This failure is a fact and is a rank example of both the helplessness and degeneration of Indian media workers. Businessmen are the biggest dispensers of gifts and favours to journalists, and the latter wouldn't do anything to invite their displeasure. Even if a few want to expose their misdeeds, they may not succeed because businessmen, as advertisers, have immense influence over media owners. This doesn't mean they routinely flout the laws, but that free and fair reporting is very tough.

Indian journalists working in the Gulf miss the influence and social status they enjoy back home. India has a free media and journalists have easy access to all centres of power. Politicians, bureaucrats and celebrities court them, and vice versa. Steady, stunning exposés of corruption in high places, controversies involving celebrities, and a stream of sensational stories make their career exciting.

For those who are used to such heady stuff, reporting on the routine activities of expatriate organisations and the inauguration of neighbourhood supermarkets in a Gulf country will appear not only utterly stupefying, but even outright trash.

The exodus of Indian journalists from the Gulf is a sad indictment of the media in the region, which is largely driven by PR and advertising, and is (apart from occasional column inches) content to ignore major social problems such as the abuses of the human rights of migrant labourers.