Dharker & Aiyar face the heat for speaking their mind

21 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji


One of the differences between the spoken and written word in journalism has been highlighted in the discussions about Anna Hazare and the Lokpal Bill. Senior journalist Anil Dharker called Hazare a man of “limited intellectual abilities” on Times Now on Monday night. The panel around him exploded with outrage, with anchor Arnab Goswami reacting with his best display of inner sadness, magnanimously offering Dharker a chance to “retract” his statement. Dharker refused. Goswami made it clear that Times Now did not endorse Dharker’s views and was not in favour of personal remarks.


Oddly, Goswami was not so upset when Ashok Pandit told Hamida Naeem that she “looked like a terrorist”. Clearly, being a terrorist is less offensive than being stupid.
Now Mani Shankar Aiyar is in the dock on social media sites for saying on CNN-IBN, “We made a huge mistake in converting this Team Anna into a Frankenstein’s monster. Now they have had their say, we have thought about it… It is my job as a Parliamentarian to legislate. I had plenty of time to legislate and I hope that we get through this Lokpal Bill and can tell Team Anna to go back to flogging drunkards in Ralegaon Siddhi.”


Had Dharker and Aiyar written the same words in articles or columns, the anger would have been slight. There is something about hearing such sentiments which seems to arouse us, while we can read much worse with perfect equanimity. Perhaps that is why all our panel discussions on Indian television disintegrate so fast into vulgar slanging matches.




I was at a panel discussion on paid news organised by Moneylife Foundation on Tuesday, together with journalists Smruti Koppikar and Dyanada Deshpande, with Geeta Seshu. It is sad to see the amount of despair and cynicism, but it is also clear that something has to be done. Better watchdogs, more resistance to management pressure, more public disclosures were some of the suggestions made. Ideas are welcome on what can and needs to be done.


For those who have missed it, try and watch Umesh Aggarwal’s documentary Brokering News. Also, go to the Press Council website and read the report on paid news - attempts were made to suppress it by owners of media houses and the report is up with a disclaimer!


Perhaps Press Council chairman Markandey Katju, in between his deliberations on who should get the next Bharat Ratna, should take on owners and managements?

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3 responses to “Dharker & Aiyar face the heat for speaking their mind”

  1. Vinita says:

    Snooty Indians like Dharker and Mani Shankar Aiyer find it difficult to comprehend that Aam Aadmis like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal possess brains. They thought all the while brains belonged to privileged people like them who hob nob with the who’s who kinds. The national icon of the Indian youth today is not the pg 3 types but a rustic villager. Parliamentarians too find it hard to digest this fact. They all need to put their ears to the ground and hear the changing values. As for paid news, it has reached such a micro level that it has become a system. Courageous journalists like Sucheta and columnists like you have stood up against this corrupt system and congrats to both of you

  2. Very thought provoking….!

  3. Abhinav says:

    There is no way to stop paid news. Guest relations executives from news channels and marketing guys from print are all lining up in 5 star hotels in Delhi to meet UP politicians and fix rates for the paid coverage for the upcoming assembly polls. Indian media has gone to dogs.