Ranjona Banerji: How to Spin Condemnation…

14 Jun,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

It’s tough being a media association in India these days. Barely have you recovered from issuing statements and condemning attacks on journalists than another one happens. It’s even worse, I imagine, if you are a media association somewhat, er, compassionate towards the current dispensation.

Every time something untoward happens in a state ruled by your favourite party, you have to scramble about looking for something even vaguely similar happening elsewhere, preferably in an area ruled by some other party. This way, you can condemn both and feel both virtuous and safe at the same time.

Sometimes, you are in luck and you can issue a strong note, full of fire and brimstone, speaking up against many incidents. But alas and alack. Life is not always kind. So, what does one do about the treatment of journalist Amit Sharma in Uttar Pradesh, which happened even as everyone was outraged about the arrests of Prashant Kanojia and others?

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/uttar-pradesh-journalist-amit-sharma-thrashed-by-railway-police-on-video-in-shamli-2051849

UP and railway police is a dire problem for the faithful, so it is best to just ignore it completely.

What is happening in Bengal under Mamata Banerjee is deplorable, between BJP rabble rousers and goons and their political counterparts in other parties as well as the latest violence against junior doctors and the incompetence of the state administration. Although journalists are not the target here, it is likely that all our guilds and whatnots are scrupulously looking for some way to connect the two so that they can be bold, vociferous and all the rest of it.

On social media, life is much easier. You can equate political violence in Bengal quite easily with a sudden spurt in the reporting of the most grisly rape cases in Uttar Pradesh. Because “equivalnce” is what it’s all about. They did it, he did it, she did it, who did it first 100 years ago. The attacks on doctors by angry patients in Kolkata has spread into other parts of India now. This is not the first time that doctors have been attacked but the scale and nature of this attack, the use of social media and the latent anger which appears to be just below the surface have made the Kolkata incident journalistic fodder. All eyes are now on Bengal and the Trinamool. A few rapes elsewhere notwithstanding not to mention attacks on the media.

As journalist Sohini Chattopadhyay said it on Twitter, (screenshot), when is our day of protest?

Given the climate in the country today – hot and ready to explode at any provocation – it is too much to expect journalists, especially our esteemed TV channels, to look at any situation with either intelligence or professionalism. No room for hypocrisy here, sensationalism is an integral part of what we do. But there are events where a little bit of investigation and good sense can also be part of our practice of our craft. Unlikely that we will see any of it here. Right now, we are playing out scenes from that classic film Network over and over again. Frenzied anchors spurring on frenzied reporters spurring on frenzied members of the public. You can see the producers licking their chops at increases in TRPs.

There are some other things happening in India to get frenzied about, believe it or not. The heat, drought and water situation across large swathes of India are already out of control. But as you and I know, there is not enough drama in such a story. For one, there is not enough political capital to attack the opponents of your favourite political party. Drought and lack of water are quite inconsiderate that way: geographically and politically indiscriminate.

Rapes being reported every day, especially most horrifically, to minors but if you cannot find a religious and therefore sectarian angle to that, well, what is the point is giving them too much coverage?

Ignite the flame and watch the consequences.

 

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

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