Ranjona Banerji: Credibility test for media

26 Oct,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


The Modi government has to be commended for the number of credibility tests it has set for the Indian media in its four-and-a-half years in office. It is another matter that a large portion of the Indian media has failed those tests, sometimes happily, sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently and even worse, collaboratively. Maybe there is something as bad – when you are gullible. Like any journalist who ever argued that demonetisation of over 80 per cent of Indian currency was a good thing because it would end black money in India. That was a good giggle moment.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has often been used, by all governments, to target political rivals. However, the current breakdown within India’s “premier” investigative agency is serious, damaging and points to one more institution being destroyed by political interference and patronage. Everyone knew that there was trouble ahead when Rakesh Asthana was parachuted into the CBI. He is known to be close to Modi and the government did try to use him to diminish the director, Alok Verma, who is also a Modi government appointee. Asthana also raised corruption charges against Verma.

But then the past and present caught up with Asthana, and FIR was filed against him by Verma for corruption and the government was forced to step in and protect their own man and try and unfang the director at the same time. Waiting in limbo now are very important cases like the Rafale deal, and loan defectors like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and more. The CBI’s warring senior-most officers have been sent on leave, officers working on the corruption charges against Asthana have been sent to the Andaman Islands, and an officer with a questionable past has been appointed acting director. The government has claimed that it is following vigilance commission norms but no one else agrees, not government officers and not lawyers.

Without a doubt, this is a tipping point for this government and therefore, one more test for the Indian media.

I had a quick look through some Hindi news channels last night. Unlike the English news channels, which were largely focused on the CBI, many seemed to be on their own trip. True to their mandate, Zee News however was looking for ways to forget that the Modi government has been in power for four and a half years and try and blame the Congress for the current mess that the CBI finds itself in.

As far as the English news channels are concerned, well. The Bennett Coleman group continues its little game on TV. Mirror Now practices real journalism. Times Now, it depends. On the one hand, a bizarre unseemly argument broke out between a Navika Kumar, trying hard to defend the government for sending the CBI director on leave and the soft-spoken Yogendra Yadav who criticised the government and the channel. Others looked on in disbelief.

But Times Now is also advertising a “sting operation” with details of Asthana’s daughter’s wedding expenses which appeared to be beyond his source of income. So possibly it depends on when you watch Times Now.

Similarly, with News18. Sometimes, it gives you the news as it is. Sometimes it has Anand Narasimhan, formerly of Times Now, trying to foment religious tension in India and then you have Bhupendra Chaubey who looks to blame every political party, especially those in opposition, for the state of India today.

India Today, TV and print, has also managed to somehow do the journalism. Like this:


NDTV carries on with more reporting and journalism than most of the rest.


Most newspapers, magazines and news sites remain truer to journalism than television.

A TOI edit:


A Telegraph front page:

A Telegraph report:


Josy Joseph in Mumbai Mirror:


The Hindu:


The Indian Express:


Are you holding your breath on this test? Don’t. There’s fear and dread all around.

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


Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Today's Top Stories