Ranjona Banerji: Media fails again. But not as government PR agents

15 Feb,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


Wednesday saw a terrible terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in the Pulwama area of Jammu and Kashmir. A suicide bomber killed 37 personnel. This massive loss of human life deserves not just our sympathy and indeed anger at so many deaths, but also must make us demand answers from our intelligence agencies and therefore from the Government of India.

However, when it comes to some parts of the media in India, asking for answers from the current government is seen as, well, what else but anti-national. Even as casualty figures were coming in, Times Now announced that it was ready to start a debate on whether intellectuals, liberals and so on were to be held accountable. Really? That’s the best they could do to protect their lord and master?

The Jaish-e-Mohammed was named as responsible for the attack. Whatever comes from across Pakistan border, whether by state or non-state actors, India needs to be ready to tackle. That’s a given. Further, it sounds like stating the obvious, but  there is no option but a multi-pronged approach to tackle cross-border attacks, Pakistan, terrorism and everything else that comes our way. This includes open diplomatic channels as well as intelligence activity and enhanced security. Just posturing about one “surgical strike” and loads of PR is never going to be an effective answer.

And where does the Indian media stand in this? You do not let the nation down. But you do and must ask questions when the government fails. And the Pulwama attack is a government failure. It has nothing to do with JNU, leftists, liberals, the Opposition or anyone that is not the government. The BJP will say what it has to. It is large sections of the Indian media which have failed the most basic test. Of journalism that is. As government PR agencies, they get full marks.


And then you have Republic TV. I have to confess that I do not watch it. But it seems hellbent as a “news” channel on inciting trouble on communal and caste lines (with competition from Times Now and sometimes from News18 or some sections of News18, that is). Whatever representatives from the channel were doing at Aligarh Muslim University seems open to question and allegations and counter-allegations have been made. Video evidence is not always reliable. Apparent sedition charges filed against AMU students for objecting to Republic TV shooting on campus without permission does however expose both the TV channel and its promoters’ connection to the current government and the BJP.

Am I not supposed to press the “universal solidarity” button here? All journalists for each other at all times? My problem here is that I am unclear whether Republic TV represents all journalists or any for that matter. Also, through my years in the profession I have seen my peers misbehaving and then expecting to be let off because they are journalists. It did not wash then, why should it now? There are no automatic free passes, not for real and pretend journalists.



Is there a plausible explanation for Firstpost starting a print edition, having been a successful news site for the past few years? Seems like moving backwards… Nostalgia perhaps. Or something interesting to do with officialdom, access and newsprint?


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

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