Ranjona Banerji: Is there reason for anti-Modi journos to fear being targeted?

07 Nov,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

How far has journalism fallen in India and how much of this fear of falling is bogus scare-mongering and how much is real? Certainly, Delhi journalists who have not genuflected or at least cuddled up to the establishment are frightened. Senior journalists talk in extremes – from fear for their collective kneecaps to suspicions that their phones have been tapped. Exaggeration is often an essential in a journalist’s armoury but there is a palpable feel of apprehension. Some people mention that they were under the scanner of the previous establishment and definitely the misuse of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and actions against cartoonists were big black marks against UPA 2.

 

But there is a more sinister atmosphere whirling around the national capital these days. The fact that none of those who praised and sang hosannas to the current prime minister when he was still a hopeful have benefitted has also increased the shivers. Was it all worth it? Did we go far enough? Or do we now have to start being slightly more objective? The future is intriguing to say the least, especially to those of us who stay away from Delhi often more out of choice than circumstance.

 

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Meanwhile journalism as entertainment is flourishing on TV with Times Now leading the charge. Almost a month ago, Tehseen Poonawalla, who serves as Congress spokesperson on TV, held a piece of paper over his face, during a debate on Robert Vadra’s land dealings, which said, “I have the answers… but he just won’t let me speak”. ttp://www.thenewsminute.com/socials/278

 

Then this week, Poonawalla apparently asked some uncomfortable questions about Arnab Goswami’s relations in the BJP and also called him a “supari journalist”. Poonawalla was asked to leave the show. The whole episode was edited out of the online version of Newshour as well. Poonawalla and friends are yelling blue murder about this assault on free speech and now there’s a petition on change.org to get Times Now to air the complete version.

 

Interestingly, Meenakshi Lekhi, then BJP spokesperson got Goswami’s “never ever never ever ever” treatment after she accused him of taking money but was allowed to continue on the show.

 

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We now have various kinds of journalists depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall. If you are not a rightwing supporter or a fan of Narendra Modi, you could be a “newstrader” (coined by the prime minister himself apparently) or a “presstitute”. If you are a fan, then you’re a “supari journalist”. You could also be part of paid media, media lies, media crooks and if you are female, then, well, you take your chances by even being alive.

 

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There’s much speculation about which media house is tilting in which direction and the general consensus seems to be that most are going right. But the most intriguing of all remains The Times of India which remains centrist. However, it remains consistently faithful to its commitment to dumbing down. The web maybe full of opinion sites and opinions in general but it is almost impossible to find the venerable newspapers edit page online. Everything comes under the heading of “blogs”. Which, if you think about it, is so last century.

 

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Those who have done any writing on gender sensitivity or gender issues, please do send your entries to the Laadli media awards. Please go to laadli.org for details. The last date is November 15.

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Is there reason for anti-Modi journos to fear being targeted?”

  1. Guest says:

    Sometimes feel our columnist is being a little harsh in her judgments. It was M. K. Mike Narayanan who would often tell people he met, I have a file on you. Wonder how many of those dark files were on journalists and how much good behaviour was secured by suggesting that those pages needed a little airing.

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