Ranjona Banerji: NDTV: Brave, but not brave enough?!

24 Oct,2017

​By Ranjona Banerji​

 

The gossip mills, which is today practically the same as the internet, is full of all kinds of doings and shenanigans at media houses. On the serious side, Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV, who has been holding governments to account on his TV show by checking how their claims hold up against fact, went public with the news that a programme on BJP president’s son Jay Shah was taken off the NDTV website.

No sooner had he done this than former NDTV star Barkha Dutt jumped in with stories about how NDTV was not as liberal as everyone or the channel itself claims, because of how the channel had treated her. This “liberal” argument is very popular on the internet and is also convenient for some commentators and journalists, because it shifts the focus from the essence of good journalism which is newsgathering and news presentation and concentrates only on political positioning. No proper journalist would contend that it is all right to be liberal and never work on any stories. Across the world, many conservative media houses do very good work journalism-wise, regardless of their political position.

But the Indian chatterati – and one see the same thought process in Trump’s USA – have created an odd sort of argument about liberal versus the rest which has coloured and influenced even experienced journalists.

NDTV is in an odd position as far as news channels go. It is braver than its television peers when it comes to taking on government, especially the BJP at the Centre, but it is nowhere near as brave as many newspapers and websites. Some news anchors and journalists are far more courageous than others. Some are meek, some give in easily to government hectoring, some attempt to be “objective” which is another term for allowing the BJP spokesperson to have a free run in every “debate”.

However, Jain’s problem is serious because he still works there and there have been strong rumours that NDTV is being bought by BJP supporter, Ajay Singh of Spicejet. As for Dutt’s complaint, one might argue that NDTV was very kind to her after the contents of the Radia Tapes were made public, so…

 

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Equally “exciting” if not quite so serious journalism-wise, is a long, accusatory resignation note by a Republic journalist on how she had to quit Arnab Goswami’s news channel because of how badly she was treated. Unfortunately for her, the story sort of turned on her when Udayakumar, a prominent anti-nuclear activist, revealed how the same reporter had used questionable journalism tactics to hound him and his family.

To give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she saw the error of her ways?

All this sordid finger-pointing led to another lively internet discussion on whether someone who ever worked for Republic TV can be anything but an inveterate sinner or whether one should show compassion. If you look at the argument “objectively” it is the same as the one used for and against NDTV.

However I will concede that more journalism as she is understood is practised by NDTV than it is by Republic TV!

 

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Meanwhile in Malta, Daphne Caruana Gazilia, a courageous journalist who exposed political corruption in Malta using the Panama Papers, was killed in a car bomb. The 53-year-old had exposed both the government and other political parties for corruption and was greatly admired for her anti-corruption blog. Thousands took to the streets to demand justice for Caruana Gazilia.

One more casualty in the shrinking group of journalists who would rather “speak truth to power” than kowtow for favours and awards.

 

​Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal.​

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