It is time you cut the self-righteous balderdash and get down to unethical cleansing, dear editors!
“I do not mean to be the slightest critical of TV news people, who do a superb job, considering that they operate under severe time constraints and have the intellectual depth of hamsters”. – Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist
I was watching a late Saturday night movie when despite keeping my phone on silent , the buzz was interminable. The numbers appeared uncannily familiar. I knew something sensational was happening for all mainstream media channels to be collectively on such a over-caffeinated drive. Unable to avoid the deluge, I meekly surrendered. Perhaps owing to a belated overwhelming grief, maybe Prime Minister Modi had decided to resign taking moral responsibility for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, I thought, a frisson of optimism reined in my constitution.
Whenever you pick up the phone from the media at an unearthly hour, the first reaction is one of impending doomsday. But positive you must be. When I finally saw what all the cacophonic frenzy was all about, frankly, I was stunned beyond belief. It was 11.30pm of an almost perfect weekend, and the nation wanted to know why Mr Robert Vadra got so distraught by an ANI news reporter asking him a question about the Haryana government and it’s questioning of him on his personal land acquisitions. From what I could see, Mr Vadra was inaugurating a gym followed by a soiree perhaps. He responded with a calm demeanour to the question germane to the event. Then the news reporter played paparazzi, by attempting a wily, wicked googly. It was unbecoming, unethical, unexpected. Any normal person can turn choleric; as for Mr Vadra, he has been inexorably attacked by a virulent BJP and a desperate-for-TRP media, for years.
Whenever the Gandhi family is attacked, some TV anchors get into uncontrollable rhapsody; even the deadly terror attack at the India-Pakistan Wagah border that killed 61 people was blacked out. That is unalloyed evidence of either warped priorities, political vendetta or pure editorial stupidity. Either way, it delivers numbers. Maybe they made big bucks on an otherwise sedate holiday.
For the whole of the following Sunday, many TV channels just played in an endless circumlocution the same TV clip; it was bizarre. It was as if India had frozen in a time zone in a upmarket Delhi gym. Seriously, are you serious, Indian media? It was an audio visual tautology with appropriate background music for cheap thrills straight out of a B-grade Bollywood thriller.
I think it is time to talk turkey; political correctness is getting us nowhere. So let’s talk.
1) Are we endorsing the paparazzi culture in India? Anytime, anywhere, anything intrusion is kosher?
2) How many times has the Indian media really questioned public figures like PM Modi or Amit Shah on the Gujarat massacre, fake encounter cases or SnoopGate and many other shenanigans by relentlessly thrusting the mike on them? Are BJP leaders at the top above media scrutiny because they won an election? But private citizens who are a soft target can be continuously harassed?
3) Did the Indian media even honestly debate the heckling of senior editor Rajdeep Sardesai in New York by Modi’s fanatical mob of supporters? Instead, they ignored one of their own credible voices and focused on genuflecting, eulogising the rock star at Madison Square Garden.
4) The same media that has gone so berserk attacking Robert Vadra maintains a pusillanimous, eloquent silence when PM Modi calls them “news traders”; the ultimate mortification and insult to the fourth estate, as it corroborates the allegations of paid media and quid pro quos.
5) BJP’s senior minister Nitin Gadkari talks of distributing fat pay packets to journalists publicly during the Maharashtra elections, but again, barring a few, the rest remain comatose. So is it an admission that Modi and Gadkari are right?
6) The Modi government has effectively censored news and imposed a stealthy emergency, but senior editors are as pleased as a puppy with two tails taking selfies with the PM! Are you serious?
7) Just how many times has the media looked within and discussed the explosive, damaging Radia tapes?
8) Since TV channels usually dig deep into available archives freely accessible even in the public domain in this Google age, why do they not do dispassionate journalism and expose “public figures” like then CM Modi hurling Jignesh Parikh (PTI report of April 13, 2004) roughly to the ground when that journalist questioned him on the Best Bakery Case? Why didn’t one show the dramatic U-turn and walk-out by Modi on Karan Thapar’s show?
9) Can the media deny that one of the owners of a large media group is openly advocating BJP in election campaigns? Can anyone treat any of its news channels with gravitas? Another TV channel is owned by a former ABVP member, and others by large corporate groups transparently wooing the PM with intimate body language on publicised platforms. Seriously, do you think the people of India are blind or what? Cut the self-righteous balderdash and get down to unethical cleansing, dear editors!
10) Journalist Rana Ayub’s article questioning Amit Shah was removed by a mainstream newspaper. Why? Did anyone debate the censorship with even perfunctory manufactured angst or passion? Not even a cursory lip-service to freedom of expression?
The media’s laundry-list of woes is endless. And now as to why the question to Mr Vadra was unnecessary, deliberate, provocative, and poorly researched. The fact is that all allegations made against him through several public interest litigations (similar to those made by the BJP) have all been rejected by multiple courts, Allahabad HC, Delhi HC and even the Supreme Court of India. The courts have chided them for attempting to damage reputation, and for having an oblique motive. There are BJP governments at the Centre, Rajasthan and Haryana, and they are free to investigate matters if they wish to; they can file an FIR and go to court. But this motivated mud-slinging and political vendetta needs to stop; India respects the law of the land, not a kangaroo court set up by eager media establishments’ trying to drive TRP numbers and some even trying to please the current dispensation.
The media needs to wake up and smell the coffee. You cannot boondoggle the people like one used to before the advent of internet libraries with infinite storage capacities, retrievable at the click of a mouse. It has been a game-changer. In the age of modern technology, smartphones and social media, there is an alternative viewpoint. Thousands of them, and they come fast. The opinion of an editor matters, but a community viewpoint matters more, it eliminates the hidden bias. No one is and should be above scrutiny. No politician, businessman, celebrity, sports-star, NGO, no one. And the media too.
Good night and good luck!