Two views on Republic TV’s Mevani outrage

12 Jan,2018

 

 

Ranjona Banerji: You hate BJP? Republic TV will hate you!

If it was not clear already, it should be now that Republic TV works only as a BJP or anti-anyone who is not BJP channel​, writes Ranjona Banerji​

 

​By Ranjona Banerji​

 

How to play victim when something goes wrong is a singular talent of the government in power at the Centre. And the government’s most passionate admirers are no different. So with Republic TV when it decided that the youth rally organised by Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and others in Delhi on January 9 was bound to be a failure.

A series of tweets from the Republic TV handle hashtagged “Jignesh Flop Show” were sent out before the rally began. Other hashtags included “Congress sponsors violence” to go with a story on how Mevani turned “violent” with a Republic TV reporter. This clip was run on air and on social media in which Mevani pushes away a mike from his face. Other Republic TV outrage included why Mevani did not answer Republic TV’s questions.

This anger was bolstered by another hashtag which claimed that the Congress Party had sponsored Mevani’s Press Club meeting. AltNews did some research into this: https://www.altnews.in/was-jignesh-mevanis-press-conference-congress-sponsored-as-alleged-by-republic-tv/

Exactly why Mevani upsets Republic TV so much is not hard to understand. Mevani is not deferential to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which Republic TV has deemed is mandatory for everyone. An earlier interview between Mevani and a Republic TV reporter, available on Youtube, on this subject is quite funny. Mevani is a Dalit leader from Gujarat. And he – among others – is putting up a resistance to the BJP and Modi. Obviously, this is not permitted in Republic TV’s idea of a fascist state.

Sadly for Republic TV, its brand of whatever it calls itself, does not get many takers within the journalistic fraternity. So there was not much sympathy for Mevani’s action of pushing away a microphone. In TV-land that is perhaps a crime punishable by law although in the days that I worked actively as a correspondent – print – people often refused to be interviewed. The world did not end as I recall nor did my sense of self get a huge drubbing by this rejection. Skins are a little thinner today or more likely if you can make a giant show of being victimised then you can create a sensation and get people to watch your channel. Is it worth adding that one wishes Republic TV was quite so diligent and militant with the various transgressions of the government in power, not just opposition politicians?

So a “senior” editor of Republic TV, earlier with Times Now, also claimed that Mevani had refused to talk to him. He argued on Twitter that he had “12 years” of experience. 12 years! Now don’t laugh, in today’s terms he should have been editor-in-chief of the news channel by now, with due respect to the current editor-in-chief who has a few more years of experience and therefore should know better.

But when this “senior” editor was asked questions himself by people at the Press Club in Delhi, he ran away as fast as he could. Sometimes experience does teach you that discretion is the better part of valour or perhaps he remembered that saying from being more recently out of school than some of us old codgers.

Media website Newslaundry.com on the other hand found that Mevani was manhandled by Republic TV and its main competitor Times Now! https://www.newslaundry.com/2018/01/06/press-club-mevani-mobbed-tv-media-republic-times-now

Meanwhile, while Republic TV was fulminating about the “anti-national” behaviour of the elected MLA from Gujarat and of people at the rally, here are two other versions of what happened. In the first, Prathistha Singh says that Republic TV defamed her husband, a bystander at the rally in Delhi, by encircling his face on TV and calling him a “goon”. Republic TV claims that the crowd turned on its reporter. This is what Singh has to say: http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/despicable-man-arnab-goswami-defamed-husband-channel/168210/ In the same programme, where “goons” were being called out, Arnab Goswami also focused on a reporter from ABP News who was there covering the event and called him a “goon”. ABP News asked for an on-air apology from Goswami. http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/abp-news-demands-air-apology-arnab-goswami-portraying-reporter-goon/168273/

Which ABP News then got:

If it was not clear already, it should be now that Republic TV works only as a BJP or anti-anyone who is not BJP channel. All this moaning about ill-treatment by various non-BJP politicians and lack of support from other journalists is nothing but a publicity stunt and sympathy-garnering device for its echo chamber.

It is true that many people watch Republic TV for entertainment or for Goswami’s nightly dramas but sadly, many people also followed tabloids with headlines like “Woman gives birth to two-headed goat”.

Popularity does not make whatever Republic TV does journalism.

 

 

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

 

 

Shailesh Kapoor: The Republic That Doesn’t Know

The larger point here is on the brazen violation of basic journalistic norms. , writes Shailesh Kapoor

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Progressive degeneration of the quality of primetime news being served on television has been a source of frustration for many like me who follow the genre closely. Till about a decade ago, Hindi news channels were associated with this degeneration theme. The famous cow-UFO story on India TV became the poster image of how Hindi news channels have made a mockery of what news should stand for.

Over the last few years, this degenerative mindset has seeped into the English news genre. No, there are no stories of UFO pulling in cows. It’s within the mainstream news that we are seeing deterioration of the quality of coverage. And that makes it even more dangerous. Because you are evidently not supposed to take a cow-UFO story seriously. But how do we ensure that the balderdash being currently served in the name of news is not taken seriously by millions of unsuspecting viewers, who may just choose to believe what they see?

Yet another symptom of this ever-growing concern was evident earlier this week in Republic TV’s coverage of Dalit leader JigneshMevani’s rally in Delhi. The coverage through the day, and then in Arnab Goswami’s debate show, was unequivocal in its extreme position on the rally, calling it a super flop, and calling those present there “goons” and “thugs”. The rally’s coverage was carried under the channel’s latest “initiative” – To call out the bluff of what they call the ‘TukdeTukde Gang’. But that’s even not the real issue of the day.

A female reporter from the channel (Shivani) tried to get bytes from Mevani’s supporters, and some of them apparently “misbehaved” with her, which means telling her and her male colleague that they will not allow Republic TV to cover the rally, and making some “lewd gestures”, like a man seeming to stick out his tongue in mockery. There was no physical contact or sexual comments passed.

But that didn’t stop Goswami from almost making this out to be a case of sexual assault, repeatedly playing on the gender of his reporter. But wait, even that’s not the real issue here.

 

To dramatise the story, Goswami decide to mark out the goons, by putting a red circle around their face, calling them names and asking for their arrest. 3-4 in the crowd were thus marked out as Mevani’s goons. Goswami proclaimed: “Tonight, I will put out videos circling the pictures of the vulgar thugs who tried to intimidate Shivani and failed.”

Next morning, it emerged that one of these “vulgar thugs” was, in fact, an ABP News supporter Jainendra Kumar, who was there covering the same story, and had, in fact, come to that part of the gathering to help his friend and fellow journalist Shivani out.

ABP News demanded an apology, and even took the demand for apology on air, and rightly so too. An apology came the next day at primetime. But it was not a spoken apology by Goswami. It was a “written” apology on TV! A text-and-VO piece that ran between the two debates, which is just the time when most viewers switch channels. And the apology was in two parts. The first part mentioned the error and apologised, and the second part lauded the Republic TV journalist for her bravery.

In this particular case, Republic TV just got unlucky, that one of the randomly marked-out people turned out to be a scribe. One can’t rule out the “marking out” of unsuspecting and innocent common men and women in many stories of this tone and tenor in the past. In fact, one of the other people marked out in this Republic story was a man who had nothing to do with Mevani. His wife, a columnist for a news website, called out Goswami in an article the next morning.

Thelarger point here is on the brazen violation of basic journalistic norms. It’s a style that Goswami has championed, and continues to practice, more aggressively now than ever before.

But to call out him alone will not be fair. His style of journalism has been apedby almost every English news channels, and quite a few in other languages too. And by choosing to do that, they become party to this process of degeneration of journalistic standards.

Many argue that not watching news, or certain channels at least, is the way out. But that would be like putting your head in the sand like an ostrich. Unless there’s a mass boycott movement, which is as improbable as a humble spoken apology from Goswami, a few individual boycotts don’t serve any real purpose.

So, watch we must, and express we must. Even if it is with a deep sense of anguish. Because we live in the times of the Internet and the social media, where sometimes, just one tweet or one blogpost can open up possibilities of a larger change.

 

Shailesh Kapoor is Founder and CEO, Ormax Media. He writes weekly for MxMIndia. The views here are personal

 

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