Kejriwal and the Media: Ranjona Banerji & Pradyuman Maheshwari

18 Mar,2014

 

 

 

Ranjona Banerji: Kejriwal’s threat to democracy?

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The media, willy-nilly, has become part of these elections. Not as the “fourth estate” of democracy but more like a “fifth column” which is out to destroy institutions – that is, if you listen to our politicians of all colours and persuasions and try to assess the anger on social media. But why blame politicians or Twitter and trolls alone? The media itself – and here most fingers will have to point to television – has behaved in extremely irrational and even unprofessional ways when it comes to bread and butter journalism.

 

Starting from the extraordinary coverage of the India Against Corruption movement in 2011, television decided to become a player rather than an observer. Even I got taken in by the exhortations of TV anchors in 2011 when they talked about millions of people taking to the streets in support of the Anna Hazare-led movement to clean up public life. Alas, when I arrived at Azad Maidan, there were less than 500 people present. Not the hundreds of thousands promised by well-positioned TV cameras.

 

But once India Against Corruption transformed itself into a political party – the Aam Aadmi Party – and Anna Hazare was replaced as the movement’s leader by Arvind Kejriwal, TV started to change its tune. The tide was now against the movement. None of the surveys running up to the Delhi state elections could predict what AAP would do. The Congress would be struck down and the BJP would win is what we were told. Instead, we had the AAP forming a very close second. So much for election surveys, psephology and astrology.

 

Once the AAP formed the government, the wrath of television knew no bounds. Of the English channels, Headlines Today and Times Now were the angriest. Every hand gesture of AAP members was dissected and denigrated. This is not to suggest that the AAP had a perfect month in power – far from it. Indeed, their law minister Somnath Bharti’s unconscionable midnight raid looking for sex workers in Khirki Extension deserved the strong condemnation it received. But the poor AAP did not even have the short “honeymoon” period accorded to everyone else by the media.

 

Since then, some TV news channels of all languages have abandoned all objectivity and decided that the AAP has to be their primary target. The fact that some journalists have joined this party has enraged them even further. The AAP has reacted with matching bile and Kejriwal has decided that he will arrest mediapersons if he comes to power. What a wonderful circus of democracy. Enter the clowns, exit all good sense.

 

Some mediapersons have now had additional tantrums about the threat to democracy promised by Kejriwal. All this is sans irony, especially of the threat to journalism as practised by them. Never mind.

 

Here are some other media views:

Senior journalists question the overreaction to Kejriwal: http://www.thehindu.com/news/ national/why-overreact-to-kejriwals-criticism-ask-journalists/article5789153.ece

 

And Shekhar Gupta speaks as an “aam patrakar” in The Indian Express: http://indianexpress.com/article /opinion /columns/national-interest- main-hoon-aam-patrakar/

 

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The upshot is that the AAP has to be treated as one more political party. Neither angel nor devil. And that ought to hold true for all of them.

 

Ranjona Banerji, senior journalist and columnist, is Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own. Twitter: @ranjona

 

 

Mediaah!: Time media shows Kejriwal his place

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

Not many moons ago, Arnab Goswami could be seen screaming at anyone who didn’t agree with him that there was an Arvind Kejriwal wave sweeping the country.

 

Arnab isn’t too kind with anyone who disagrees with him. His body language changes and his head shakes in denial the moment the guest with an opposing view opens his or her mouth.

 

In fact, even before a guest finishes his first two or three words, Arnab opens his mouth and the two can be seen to be talking together. But that’s his style, and people love the Times Now editor-in-chief for that.

 

The problem for Kejriwal is that soon after his party’s great showing at the Delhi elections, he started negating the highfalutin statements he made before the polls and after them.

 

Many in the media – and this writer included – had then regarded Kejriwal as the messiah who God had sent to cleanse the country’s political system. And as it often happens, it propelled him to dizzying heights.

 

Some of my friends and colleagues in the profession didn’t think too much of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. I thought they would come around the man and his ways soon enough. After all, weren’t there many who thought a certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was nuts with his satyagraha and non-violence movement?

 

I was proved wrong and to my dismay – quite like the disillusionment I had with the BJP post L K Advani’s Rath Yatra and the Babri Masjid desecration in 1992 – Kejriwal made a mockery of himself and all that he stood for.

 

In fact things have gotten so bad now that even though the AAP leader could well be speaking the truth, no one really trusts him.  The media at least doesn’t.

 

We know the media isn’t above board. There is corruption in many newsrooms.  Paid news is rampant, and despite all of the Election Commission’s efforts, the smart ones still get away. There is paid news even for non-political content, but I don’t think Kejriwal will be too bothered about the other kind of parties.

 

But is it right for him to question the integrity of news channels just because they are now treating him the way they treat all others? Just because they are questioning every act of his, which they wouldn’t just six months back?

 

I have found Arnab Goswami unduly harsh on Kejriwal (see: Is Arnab being too harsh on Kejriwal, mid-day, March 13:  http://www.mid-day.com/articles/is-arnab- being-too-harsh-on-kejriwal/15156104), but that’s no reason for anyone to rubbish him (Arnab) and suggest that he and other newsroom bosses are on the take from Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi.

 

The News Broadcasters Association acted on it a few days after the utterance and his issued a warning to the AAP leader. The message from the NBA: stop the trash, Mr Kejriwal, or our members will stop covering you.

 

While Arnab Goswami was pretty scathing on his News Hour, the real blow came from Rajat Sharma on his show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Times Now. Coming on air when he was down with fever and a bad throat, Mr Sharma was scathing in his criticism of Kejriwal and exposed his doublespeak in a one-hour show.

 

Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP would’ve been taught a lesson not to subject the media to their loose talk.  Damn the media, and be ready to get damned.

 

Although Pradyuman Maheshwari is Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of MxMIndia.com, the views expressed here are his own. Twitter: @pmahesh

 

 

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