Ranjona Banerji: Mirror Now: No mirror to Times Now

18 Sep,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


The horrendous gangrape in Rewari would have in most times been the only news stories for our friends in the media. However, the small problem of the Prime Minister’s birthday inserted itself into the news cycle and god knows that had to get as much space as possible. A giant laddoo and 68 children paraded around – now, how could that be trumped by a gangrape? Plus, there were other “burning issues” to deal with: rising fuel prices, the falling rupee, the various questions about Vijay Mallya. As it happened however it was the RSS conference that competed the most with Narendra Modi’s birthday. All within the family, as it were.


Police inaction, the lack of even compassion from the government until forced by shame, the supposed involvement of an army personnel’s family – all these would have cause enormous media rage, if it was any other government in charge.

Some people feel that there is a whiff of change when it comes to our “news” channels. That there has been more criticism of the government in the past few days than in the past four years. The problem is that it is still a whiff. And some of the criticism has come on comedy and satire shows, like The Week That Wasn’t. The simple fact that it is the job of journalists to hold the government in power to account has still not sunk in. The proportion of cheerleaders to journalists is still weighted towards cheerleaders.

Therefore, the temptation for cheerleaders to mimic Doordarshan of the early days and behave like government mouthpieces remains. The long interaction that Modi had with Dawoodi Bohras in Indore, the RSS “conference”, you almost expect the films division logo at the end of the broadcast. Together with this PR job was the whitewashing of Arun Jaitley, so that he could be let completely off the hook when it came to Mallya’s conversation with him in the Central Hall of Parliament in March 2016, before Mallya’s departure. Or the time given to BJP supporters, in lieu of available spokespersons, to somehow blame the current fuel prices on the previous government.

However, small mercies, the Rewari gangrape was covered by some TV channels, notably Mirror Now which works hard to ensure that it is not a mirror of Times Now. The anchors, not just the formidable Faye D’Souza, are tough and relentless.


The other story is the tragedy of the death of sanitation worker in Delhi, who was forced to go into sewer minus protective gear and on a weak rope. Ironically, this happened soon after the prime minister was carrying on one more bogus “cleanliness drive” by sweeping a clean garden of a couple of plastic packets and not very well. Journalists worth their name would question the need to launch these endless “drives”, which are nothing but PR exercises, while ignoring the real tragedies which are taking place on the ground.


This is what you hold a government to account for, not get over excited because the Prime Minister has followed you on Twitter.


Meanwhile, websites like Alt News carry on their relentless expose of fakery on social media. Here’s a faithful BJP fan, who is “followed” and by all accounts “friended” by the PM:


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

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