Ranjona Banerji: Divisions in the media are going to get worse until the general election

06 Jul,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

What made the headlines in past couple of days? These are some: The Supreme Court of India ruled that an elected body has more power than an appointed official, which is a huge fillip for the Aam Aadmi Party-ruled government in New Delhi. The Centre raised the minimum support price of kharif crops, which should help beleaguered farmers. People are getting lynched to death or beaten brutally by mobs who seem resistant to what passes for law and order in this country. The Centre has asked Whatsapp to do something about fake news and rumours which lead to some of those lynchings. Meanwhile, the Centre can do nothing about its own trolls who continue to attack External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for not behaving like a bigot. And another BJP-related troll threatens Congress leader Priyanka Chaturvedi’s daughter with rape. Mumbai suffers from the effects of torrential rain as always.

Obviously, Times Now and Republic TV must find distractions. Especially when it comes to two of these news items. First, the Supreme Court ruling on AAP versus the BJP. The office of the Lieutenant Governor, regardless of the person, has been a constant obstacle for the Delhi government, stopping just about every scheme it has come up with. Second, the trolling of Swaraj and the silence of her fellow ministers, barring one or two.

Times Now and Republic TV had, obviously to run to their favourite themes to defend the BJP and the Government: anti-nationals. Republic TV fell back on “Maoists” while Times now opted for Pakistan. Anyone who spends any time at all on Twitter knows that the worst offenders when it comes to trolling have connections with the BJP. The gentleman arrested for the rape threat against Chaturvedi’s daughter had connections with the BJP. All those who trolled Swaraj for stepping in to help an interfaith couple being harassed by a passport officer are well-known BJP supporters with huge followings.

Clearly evasive action was necessary. Times Now’s Navika Kumar was enraged about the “links” they had found for people who had trolled Narendra Modi with Pakistan. Apparently, there is a huge (I use this word the way Donald Trump does) link between the ISI and anti-Modi trolls. Only those who embellish their lives with interesting substances would believe such stories. Republic TV decided to attack a human rights lawyer for her “Maoist” links, leading Sudha Bharadwaj to issue a public statement.

https://barandbench.com/lawyer-activist-sudha-bharadwaj-squares-arnab-goswami-defamatory-allegations/

Judging from Twitter, one of the trolls who attacked Sushma Swaraj and subsequently got “blocked” by the minister, appeared on India Today TV to present “her side” of the story.

 

In case people think that there is too much blaming of the BJP when it comes to trolling, here is a tweet from supposed filmmaker and BJP supporter Ashoke Pandit, explaining what “legitimate sexual abuse” is. It offers, if nothing else, a glimpse into a mindset.

Plus here’s Union minister Jayant Sinha welcoming lynch convicts, lest you believed that the Centre was serious about tackling mob violence.

 

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One thing is certain. As we come closer to the next general elections, we will see more vicious trolling and most likely within the BJP and we will see more division within the media. Welcome to the jungle.

 

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

 

 

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