Ranjona Banerji: Is Barkha Dutt right in damning Arnab Goswami & Newshour?

29 Jul,2016

By Ranjona Banerji


When it comes to India-Pakistan issues, the Newshour has lost balance, objectivity, good sense and journalism.


I am no great admirer of television news, as any regular reader of this column knows. I feel genuinely sorry for young journalists who venture into television news because their foundations will always remain weak, given what passes for news on television these days.


I might as well put a disclaimer upfront: Yes, print and web journalists can also be obnoxious, incompetent and unbearable. However, print by its very nature and its time lapse, has some checks and balances that neither TV nor the web have. This time lapse gives it a better semblance of objectivity.


So I watched the fight between former colleagues and both prominent TV anchors Barkha Dutt and Arnab Goswami with horror and trepidation (yeah, and some laughter and some schadenfreude). I am no fan of either and have written about that extensively. Dutt’s involvement in the Radia Tapes was inexcusable. And it was she who gushed about Narendra Modi being a “rock star” during his first Madison Square Garden performance to NRIs in New York. However, in this instance I wholeheartedly agree with Dutt — Goswami’s Newshour on Times Now, no matter how popular it is, has not been journalism for a long time.


Forget the fact that everyone screams at each other (that’s called an “open debate”, I gather) or that the anchor launches into long diatribes in the middle of everything. The way the discussions are tilted, the choice of topics that ignores half the issues of the day, the targeting of people who do not toe the Goswami or the Government line, all points to a perversion of what the Newshour itself used to be and what journalism is.


You only have to observe Goswami’s tone and demeanour when he interviewed Raj Thackeray and Narendra Modi compared to when he interviewed Rahul Gandhi to know where his loyalties (and his nightmares) lie.


When it comes to India-Pakistan issues, the Newshour has lost balance, objectivity, good sense and journalism. What can only be false manipulative nationalism blares out from guests and anchors, and this style is copied by other anchors, notably of India Today TV and NewsX. The Indian Armed Forces are seen as the repository of all good and anyone who asks a question is a traitor.


(The only time Goswami targets everyone equally is when he talks on women’s issues.)


On his show on July 26, Goswami had this to say about his fellow journalists, “They echo the Pakistani line under the guise of backing Kashmiris. They support Pakistan sitting here in India and call themselves Indian liberals… They are not real Indian media. They are supporting Pakistan; directly or indirectly supporting ISIS and supporting Hafiz Saeed.”

He then went on to say that such journalists should be questioned.


If what Goswami has said was not so dangerous, it would be laughable. By what yardstick is he the arbiter of what journalists should or should not be? If the Indian Government – even this Modi one – starts talks with Pakistan, will he dub it a Traitor Government? And if he thinks Indain journalists are supporting or are supported by ISIS, no less, he better present some proof and fast.


His own channel happily ignores burning issues in India when the Modi-run government is not shown in a kind light. The rise in attacks on Dalits is not a major issue for Times Now, nor is the attacks on minorities. The terrorist attack on the Air Force base in Pathankot which happened under Modi’s watch is not to be talked about any more. For a man who rose to fame during the 2008 Mumbai attacks and for whom patriotism is paramount, you would have thought the fact that terrorists ran around a military installation for days would still rankle.


Many journalists criticised Goswami after his rant but it was Barkha Dutt’s comments of Facebook, later publicised, which got most traction. They have after all been former colleagues and some of Goswami’s rage appeared to be targeted at her. Dutt said “I am ashamed to be in the same industry as him. What’s striking is his brazen and cowardly hypocrisy. So he drones on and on about pro-Pakistan doves without one word on the J&K alliance agreement that commits the BJP and PDP to talks with Pakistan…”


And she is right. Goswami does not attack the BJP for its coalition with the PDP which comes from the other end of the patriotism spectrum in its avowed intent to talk to Kashmiri separatists. In the Goswami world, the fact that the use of pellet guns in Kashmir has made matters worse as far as the public are concerned is to be discussed by traitors only. Modi’s visit to Pakistan to eat Nawaz Sharif’s birthday cake is to be forgotten. Burhan Wani is a jihadi terrorist and there can be no argument on that.


However you feel about Dutt as a journalist, it is deplorable that there are journalists who seem to agree with Goswami – though most of them do not have the courage to put their name and face to such comments but just keep them safe on Facebook and such. If a journalist who questions the establishment is a traitor, then All Hail Traitors because what other role do we have as an instrument of democracy?


Dutt is going to town on Goswami’s diatribe and he has not responded to calls from TV channels for an open debate. In her show on July 28, she brought up these attacks on her person, without naming Goswami, and the BJP member of her panel squirmed with embarrassment.


Whether Goswami agrees to an “open debate” or not, it seems to be clear that Goswami has breached the barrier.

Also, he can now drop the journalist pretence and hopefully some government will give him a Cheap Patriot Award. O, spelling mistake, did I mean Chief? Or…


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Is Barkha Dutt right in damning Arnab Goswami & Newshour?”

  1. ashok759 says:

    Barkha Dutt is right on this one. The Radia tapes are neither here nor there, Niira herself is not heard of at all nowadays.