Ranjona Banerji: Is the media fickle, or just having fun

15 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


Television is, of course, very worried about the next President of India, but newspapers have given it the treatment it deserved – reporting on the news rather than trying to create it.


Which means that Friday morning saw the straining of the ties between the UPA and Trinamool Congress get full play in the papers, although Mamata Banerjee’s mocking of the prime minister seems to have got a muted response.


There has been a distinct movement to belittle Manmohan Singh and the media now appears to have been taken along for the ride. It seems a bit odd that rather take a non-partisan stand, the media has been party to this campaign. Or maybe it is not odd and I am not surprised.


The downside for Team Anna is that Mamata Banerjee has stolen their limelight. Of particular interest is her declaration in today’s Times of India that she is a “simple man”. Indeed.


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Mumbai’s newspapers have focused this week on the extraordinary behaviour of the Mumbai police, with its raids on bars and restaurants and treatment of customers. On Thursday, The Times of India, Mid-Day and Hindustan Times dedicated pages to the police’s highhanded methods and its reliance on archaic laws to harass people. Vasant Dhoble, the assistant commissioner of police who conducted most of the raids, was also targeted. Pritish Nandy has written an impassioned article on the destruction of civil liberties in Mumbai over the years in TOI.


Some of this concerted media focus has prodded the minister of state for home to ask the police to exercise some restraint. There has also been some discussion to re-look at all these old and pointless laws.


Friday’s Mid-Day has a story on how the protests against Dhoble and the police which started on cyber space are now entering real life as well. And, according to the paper the city’s “young leaders” like Milind Deora and Poonam Mahajan have also asked the police not to harass the innocent.


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The unfortunate ego battle between Indian tennis stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi has now got full media attention, especially as it affects India’s Olympic media chances. Here too, the media is divided between the two and as Bhupathi is better at building media relations, his case is being viewed with more sympathy. This is, in spite, of the fact that Bhupathi is the one putting up terms and conditions and refusing to play with Paes and also that Paes has bigger dibs on the Indian Olympic team because of his higher ranking.


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The News Corp noose around British prime minister David Cameron gets closer and closer. Testifying in front of the Brian Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, Cameron tried to stand his ground that he had done no wrong but was hard-pressed to explain a text message from former News Corp CEP Rebekkah Brooks which said “we’re definitely in this together” just before the general election which the Conservative Party and Cameron won.


The nexus between Britain’s political classes and the Murdoch organisation is no secret but its tentacles appear to have poisoned British polity, the establishment and the media itself.


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Interesting to see after all the hoopla over former army chief VK Singh and all that bombastic media support, suddenly the media focus seems to have shifted to his detractors!


Fickle or just having fun?


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