Ranjona Banerji: Journos with blood lust & more

19 Feb,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Pulwama attack and everything that has followed has turned large tranches of the media, especially television, into army generals, strategists, defence ministers, prime ministers, home ministers, foreign affairs ministers and so on. Perhaps that is just as well, since the actual prime ministers, home ministers, foreign affairs ministers and so on are doing very little apart from speechifying.  And let’s not forget one TV journalist who felt that a thundering speech from Prime Minister Narendra Modi was enough to terrify Pakistan and everyone else. So far, there have been any number of speeches and no signs of trembling fear from Pakistan, from Uri to Pulwama. Meanwhile, the chiefs of staff meanwhile are apparently being kept out of security meetings. Under the circumstances, why shouldn’t the talking heads on television run the country?

It may be true that this reaction from parts of the media was to be expected. Several TV journalists display symptoms of blood lust. (One even wears a combat vest all the time, although he is not a member of the Armed Forces.) The idea of a war, of covering a war, of being part of a war – from suitably far away obviously, preferably a TV studio – has them quivering with excitement. Few people who have been part of an armed encounter react with quite so much fervour. One might argue that thankfully, they are not baying mobs who lynch people. But as we have sadly seen, such media mobs can incite people to violence.

I say this as a journalist, but sitting on TV and deciding what is to be done next, with security issues at hand reeks of stupidity. Mind you, many of these “journalists” will not ask searching questions about the Rafale deal and have bought the Modi government’s bogus argument about “security” concerns about the specifications of the fighter plane. The logic presumably goes: discussing an armed response to a terrorist attack from a dangerous neighbour with huge ramifications for the neighbourhood does not affect national security, but asking why a plane suddenly costs three times its originally negotiated price will destroy India’s security?

How stupid do you have to be?

O yes, a journalist baying for war while shedding crocodile tears about “martyrs” the rest of the time.

The rest of studio time – as well as social media time – is spent trying to incite communal riots across India, encouraging mobs who have been attacking Kashmiri students. For all their training in “foreign affairs”, neither TV anchors nor their “guests” seem to have much idea about the significance of calling Indian citizens “foreigners” or asking Kashmiris to “go back”. Go back where?

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And how can we forget the huge fake news factories churning out rubbish and being given legitimacy by news organisations?

Footage from Iraq and Syria, pictures of LTTE militants, old debunked stories from years ago, have all been repeated all over social media. It took a lot of hard work by fake news trackers like Alt News and Webqoof to set the record straight. And this is a double shame on all journalists who no longer do basic fact-checking before they put information out.

Read through this fascinating account of how technology was used to put out a fake pic of a terrorist. Media houses also bought into this trickery:

https://www.altnews.in/photo-of-slain-terrorist-circulated-by-indian-media-is-made-using-an-app/

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy made a claim about arrested jawans in the 2014 Buldwana attack on Twitter. This was repeated around the internet. General GD Bakshi (retired) repeated it on India TV. In spite of several former Armed Forces trying to set the record straight, no one was interested. Here’s the story from The Quint’s fact-checking unit, webqoof:

https://www.thequint.com/news/webqoof/budgam-incident-2014-jawans-jailed-pulwama-terror-attack-fact-check#gs.d2uRdzTQ

What is happening in the country is frightening. What is happening in the media is criminally shameless.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

 

 

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