Ranjona Banerji: Don’t support Modi and get damned!

11 Feb,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


It’s familiar territory but it still requires revisiting. Both Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagorika Ghose, both of the news channels CNN-IBN, were targets of online trolls this week – again. And again, the anger was aimed at their political affiliations. Or more specifically, because they were perceived as being opposed to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.


Now online trolls are a well-documented group who use anonymity to attack people for all sorts of reasons. These attacks are often personal and vicious. Some have the ability to withstand them and some don’t. I myself have argued that journalists – because we operate in the public domain – must develop thick skins if we want to survive.


So the discussion here is not about viciousness and threats of bodily harm. It is about the increasing inference that any journalist who does not support the BJP or Narendra Modi is corrupted. The obvious corollary is that journalists who do support the BJP and Narendra Modi are pure and untainted. Yet, both cannot be true.


Either we want total objectivity at all times from all journalists which means that Swapan Dasgupta and Ashok Malik (I am just pulling names out of a hat) can no longer support or become mouthpieces for the BJP and Modi in print as much as all the others who are accused of being “Congress stooges” must stop interpreting Rahul Gandhi for the benefit of the rest of us. But if you allow one – and I see no one stopping either Dasgupta or Malik – then you have to allow the other – and that includes just about any political party or formation, not just the Congress.


The irony for Sardesai and Ghose of course is that their employer and the channel they work for are widely seen as being pro-BJP and definitely pro-Modi. The same odd situation was faced by TV journalists of the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak during the Gujarat riots of 2002. While the India Today group was clearly pro-BJP (and this was evident in the writings of the India Today correspondent in Gujarat, among other indicators) members of its news channel were attacked for simply reporting what was happening.


Indeed, this is why it is dangerous for media houses to have clear but unstated political positions. Everything is open to misunderstanding and attack. It is perhaps time, it needs to be reiterated, for media houses and journalists to be clear and open about their political affiliations. It happens in other countries; why not here?


There is little doubt, for me at least, that this credibility crisis for the media has worsened after the revelations of the Niira Radia tapes and the conversations of Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi with the lobbyist and PR person. After the initial disclosures by Open and Outlook magazines, there was some media coverage which soon petered out. This was a serious lapse on our part. We needed to have been more stringent because we in the media suffered the most. Instead, we hoped that if we ignored it, it would go away. Rot, however, has its own patterns of behaviour.


The attacks on Caravan magazine for publishing interviews it did with terror accused Swami Aseemanand emphasise again the dangerous media environment we know live in. There’s no point denying it: the question is how we deal with it.




There is one brand of journalist who is forgotten in all this Congress versus BJP hoopla: those who do not support any one party but find various elements of many parties disturbing or difficult. I happily put myself in this category. As the old saying goes: I am not prejudiced, I just hate everybody!


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6 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Don’t support Modi and get damned!”

  1. Anil Kohli says:

    This shud interest you
    http://ioretradingindia.blogspot.in/2014/02/saints-and-angels-of-english-main.html rejoinder to your above article. Hope you enjoy reading it.

  2. Mukt Vichar says:

    All this non sense of Independent journalists is eye wash. Journalists for long were in bed with politicians & were there points men. Those who did not , never got prominence. Thanks to SM (twitter) these charlatans r finally getting exposed. While online abuse is despicable, many a times the journalists have also stooped too low. Perpetual prejudice & a mocking attitude to contrary view has been the hallmark of these holier-than-thou journos.

  3. Deshbandhu says:

    ‘Serious lapse’ is not synonym for collusion debunked. Political inclination is unavoidable for anyone, but spewing lies or peddling favorites by media is unethical. Fortunately, its Viewers who decide for Journalists of their onscreen conduct. No denying though, there are many righteous ones in the fraternity worth watching & listening to !

  4. Anil Vasudevan says:

    Madam: Sardesai and Ghose being biased and hence targeting their political affiliations is not the issue. Its hard not to be biased. But they twist facts, abuse and vilify persons/organizations which is not journalism. They package their own opinions as news. You cannot paint people who object to these kind of cheap journalism with a single brush. If you r supporting these type of journalism, good luck!

  5. cecil says:

    Many journalists have affiliations for monetary reasons and some journalists like to become fixers and we have many of the journalist-fixer types in all political parties. They feed on each other. The most disturbing trend we see today is that senior jouranlists are on the payroll of big corporates and they infact inform their contacts on stories that may appear in the newspaper the next day. The earlier this practice is stopped the better.

  6. Guest says:

    It would be good for journalism to come out of the shadow of such overt political affiliations / sympathies. Perhaps our columnist should learn to love and hate some aspects each of all the political actors. Each case, each situation on its merits.