SIT’s report makes for exciting TV but bad journalism

13 Feb,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


The Special Investigation Team as appointed by the Supreme Court to look at the involvement of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots of 2002, particularly with reference to the Gulbarg society case has submitted its report. The report is still in sealed cover. But television spent half of last week going to town over the “clean chit” given to Modi and promptly a number of TV debates were held.


The BJP, quite relieved to get a break from the behaviour of its ministers in Karnataka, sent out its publicity army in full force. TimesNow insisted that it had exclusive “leaks” from the sealed report while every other channel had their “sources” who told them what was in it.


Newspapers, however, were forced to be more circumspect, although Times of India did initially blow up this “clean chit” – ironically on the same day that it headlined the slamming of Modi by the Gujarat High Court over his government’s inaction during the riots.


By Friday morning, newspapers decided to wait for the actual report even as beleaguered BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman was begging channels to wait for the report. Some like Swapan Dasgupta and Yatin Oza were happy to jump the gun and blame secularists, the Congress, Muslims, activists and other wicked people for blaming Modi.


Much as all this makes for exciting television, it also makes for bad journalism. One can understand our desire for tamasha but one can hope that at least we have some facts before we start jumping to conclusions.


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It was interesting to hear Chief Election Commissioner Y Quereshi telling NDTV how hard the commission has worked to encourage higher voter interest during these UP elections. For some reason, after that the discussion became about low voter interest in Mumbai with lyricist Javed Akhtar and columnist Sandeep Desai holding forth. Quereshi did point out that Allahabad’s track record was worse than Mumbai’s.


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The arrival of Comedy Central on our televisions has meant the welcome addition of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to our homes. It is well worth watching at 11.30 every night as the comedian takes on American and world politicians and politics, among other things. No one is spared, which is wonderful.


Of course, I understand that all Indian people and things are sacrosanct and far above humour and satire and must never be so sullied but still, kudos to Cyrus Broacha and The Week that Wasn’t on CNN-IBN.


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While on satire, Europe has to sometimes win the day for its devil-may-care attitude. The clip about Rafael Nadal and the power of Spanish athletes – implying drug use – on the satirical programme Les Guignols, shown on the French + Canal channel has Spain up in arms. Legal action will be taken says Spain, as this is one more in a series of allegations by various French sportspersons and media that Spanish sportspersons take performance-enhancing substances. The clip, available on YouTube, is very wicked!


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