Our fascination with Musharraf

17 Nov,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Wednesday night provided some interesting debates on television. NDTV looked at whether Manu Sharma, convicted for killing model Jessica Lal, should have been given bail to attend a family wedding, especially since he violated his parole conditions the last time. Headlines Today and Newsx both examined cricket issues – why ticket sales were down and the consequences of match-fixing. Times Now looked at the granting of bail to the Malegaon accused and whether there was institutional bias against Muslims, also examined parole then moved on to Mamata Banerjee and her changing stand on the Maoists. My cable operator has decided that I do not need to view CNNIBN, so I am a bit handicapped here.

 

Is it heartening that the anchors behaved better than most of the guests? The tendency to shout, interrupt and refuse to allow others to speak is not just vastly annoying for viewers but also reflects quite badly on our standards of civilisation. For instance Mahesh Jethmalani did not even allow Kamini Jaiswal to speak on Times Now. Whatever their past animosity, a certain minimum level of decorum is expected here. Even Arnab Goswami seemed to have had enough. Interestingly, perhaps tired of being told that he does not do enough homework, he quoted chapter and verse of the parole laws to lawyers to make his point – and score a couple of brownie points.

 

I saw on Twitter that former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had been shooting his mouth off in an interview on NDTV. I have never been able to understand the media’s fascination for this former general, who is so desperately searching for some space in the limelight, and as a result I did not bother to watch. Did I miss anything? Apparently that Dawood Ibrahim masterminded the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts a few years in advance as retribution for the 2002 Gujarat riots, according to Twitter. I always thought that the 93 blasts followed the post-Babri demolition riots but am sure that NDTV and Musharraf know better. Or perhaps all the people on Twitter got it wrong. The point is, why keep going back to Musharraf if you’re not going to ask him about Kargil and his role in bolstering ISI support for the Taliban?

 

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But on a similar note, is there any purpose served in getting Pakistani guests on a panel discussion on Indo-Pak relations and then allowing your guests to get into a slanging match? It makes for distasteful television for sure. It may make better sense to hold one-on-one interviews with relevant Pakistanis so that viewers can at least understand what is going on instead of having to watch people trading insults. Everything in life does not have to be a copy of Big Boss/ Big Brother.

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After all the flak which Markandey Katju has faced for his remarks about the media in India, he did earn some kudos for his views on the defamation case on Times Now. He made it quite clear that Rs 100 crore for a mistake was excessive. He also indicated that India has a long tradition of judicial restraint.

Perhaps it is time to build some bridges and a better relationship with the new chairperson of the Press Council of India?

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