Ranjona Banerji: In Trumpland: Disagree and get banned!

28 Feb,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Fake news is the enemy of the people declares US president Donald Trump and promptly bars such well-known fake news outlets like the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, New York Times, Daily Mail from White House press briefings. However, the world’s most respected, fair, unbiased outlets like Breitbart News are of course top of the invitation list.

This is not a joke. This is a bizarre scene being played out in the world’s most respected democracy. Trump does not like anyone who disagrees with him or indeed anyone who does not like him. Trump is not shy or wary of letting everyone know how he feels. Trump is, you may argue, without guile – he tells it like he sees it. Or, you may argue, he is like a spoilt child who is not used to be being denied what he wants or what he thinks he should get.

America is fighting back. People, the media and the American system understand rights and responsibilities and what it means to lose them. Many are not afraid to make their voices heard. After the White House ban, many other news outlets simply boycotted the White House press briefing.

Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times said, “…nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties.”

Lee Glendenning, editor of Guardian US, said, “This is a deeply troubling and divisive act. Holding power to account is an essential part of the democratic process, and that’s exactly what the Guardian will continue to do.”

The White House Correspondents Association was “protesting strongly”, said its president Jeff Mason.

Do you want to take a look at how we deal with this here in India? How easily we capitulate? How we justify giving in by saying there is no other way to get access? Although few administrations act like Trump’s – which seems to have based itself on Communist or Soviet models – it is open knowledge that the administration at the Centre in India, for instance, does not like to share information. And that is true of several states as well.

Outlets which suck up get more access to those in power. And that is often all that matters to some journalists and their owners. The owners can have multiple business interests and that means that they need to keep on the sweet side of politicians in power. Nothing corrupts the smooth progress of journalism more than this. And the situation does not need to be made worse by careerists and opportunists who are willing to toe any management or government line just to get ahead.

I repeat these points again and again because what we’re doing is killing journalism in India with this sort of attitude. If that sounds dramatic, I can amend it to suffocating journalism. Yes, there are news outlets which do not succumb, which continue to hold governments to account. Almost none of those news outlets, one might remind oneself, operate in the sphere of television.

Yes, there are occasional news anchors and to be fair many more reporters in television, who stick to the accepted norms of journalism. But they are few and far between and usually get lost in the loud screaming melee of establishment stooges.

 

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In some good news then, I am much enjoying Sarah Jacob’s version of the popular NDTV show, We the People. She is straightforward and refreshingly non-dramatic and does not appear to fall into the trap of false equivalences of allowing bigotry and prejudice to take advantage of freedom of speech.

I now want to scream when I hear some TV anchor say “You have a point” when someone sets forth a polluted agenda, because the anchor is pretending to be “objective”.

Get the point?

 

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