Ranjona Banerji: The government will defend monetisation, but journalists?

18 Nov,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

So here we are on November 18, 10 days after the Prime Minister’s dramatic announcement that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes are no longer legal tender and that till the end of the year, Indian citizens were no longer allowed to access their own money in quantities that they might desire. The intention was a “surgical strike” on untaxed and unaccounted money lying in pillow cases and mattresses and dungeons all over dishonest India.

 

Whichever way you want to spin it – and the media definitely does – this demonetisation exercise has caused massive (not minor) “inconvenience”, which is the new government buzzword for death, misery and starvation. It’s not just about people standing in queues outside banks in cities, although the media has given us images and sound bites and quotes in buckets from there. It is about almost every journalist deciding that to be objective, you have make an effort to try and find at least one person who says: “Rah rah Modi, I am so happy that my old mother has had to postpone her life-saving operation for the sake of the nation because I have no cash and no insurance and I don’t trust government hospitals”. This balances all the others who are angry, frustrated, miserable, tired and desperate.

 

Not only that, across news channels, you can see anchors getting shifty when a panellist condemns the implementation of this scheme too much. Analysts and opposition party politicians get interrupted because we have to go to a break or give the BJP spokesperson the chance to respond.

 

In all this, one has to commend Ravish of NDTV as ever for his scathing attacks on injustice, for Rajdeep Sardesai for talking to people and reporting on their suffering, to Nidhi Razdan of NDTV for her excellent interview with Arun Shourie who is in his element when picking holes in the prime minister’s ego, to Arfa Khanum of Rajya Sabha TV for her brave and bold panel discussions which can be no holds barred and to Zakka Jacob of CNN-News18 for decided that it is more professional to focus on people’s suffering rather than becoming a government cheerleader. And we definitely feel the terrible loss of Girish Nikam.

 

Too many journalists unfortunately cannot see the difference between attacking black money and pointing out problems with the implementation of this scheme. Obviously, the government will defend its idea. But when journalists declare that Kashmir’s various problems have been solved since stone-pelting by angry youth has stopped because of demonetisation, then you know they are not journalists and might as well apply as BJP spokesperson to MJ Akbar or Sambit Patra or whoever.

 

The Opposition ripped into the government in both houses of Parliament this week. What did we see more of on TV? Of course, it was Union minister Venkaiah Naidu’s defence of the scheme and anger at the Opposition. The narrative that if you are complaining about the scheme you are an anti-national in favour of corruption is parroted not just by the government and BJP but also by some sections of the media.

 

How much play did the expose by Prashant Bhushan on payments made by corporates to politicians of all parties get, compared to coverage of the prime minister weeping? How much play did the videos of BJP members complaining about the scheme get? How about people caught for bribery using the new Rs 2000 notes? Instead, people pooh-poohing the deaths in queues got more airtime.

 

Catch News today has a story that RSS member Govindacharya has issued a legal notice to the Government on the monumental failure of the currency ban and demanded compensation. Let’s see how much our national media cares about that. Or will it all be Nalin Kohli dismissing the RSS as anti-national? And Quint has a story about how Arun Jaitley turned down agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh’s request that farmers be allowed to buy seeds with old notes. Anyone willing to guess how much air time such news will get?

 

I’m not holding my breath…

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: The government will defend monetisation, but journalists?”

  1. ashok759 says:

    Post truth demands post old fashioned journalists. It is getting them in spades.