Ranjona Banerji: Jingoism Rules, Regrettably

19 Jul,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The Kulbhushan Jadhav case is a near-perfect example of how jingoism can dictate the news. The case against an Indian being held and then sentenced to death as a spy in Pakistan has deeply affected India as no other such instance. At the International Court of Justice on July 18, the ICJ ruled in favour of India on six counts, including allowing India consular access and allow Jadhav a fair trial. Pakistan was held in breach of its commitment to the Vienna convention.

The Pakistan government and the media (which has most often been critical of the government, sometimes at great cost to itself) chose to see this ICJ judgment as a victory for Pakistan, since the judgment did not either annul the trial or order Jadhav’s release.

India and the media positioned the judgment as a victory for India and Jadhav. However, even as the judgment was being read out, several in the Indian media were clear to point out that the order was not a release and that there was still plenty to be done before Jadhav is free. As this editorial from The Hindu makes clear:


The photograph of Pakistan’s newspapers the day after is quite amusing in its great nationalistic stance. Sometimes, we have more in common than we even realise!

Of course, this did not mean that the Modi-led BJP government at the Centre did not immediately take credit for the ICJ judgment, but anyway. Such is the nature of jingoism on the Indian side of the border.


If we’re looking at “happy news”, then here’s senior journalist Hartosh Singh Bal’s victory over Open magazine, for wrongful termination in 2013. He has also been awarded six months’ pay. Bal’s termination was found to be in contravention of the Working Journalists Act, something most journalists don’t really bother about. This is a rare instance of a journalist actually going to court and even if it took five years, Bal’s case should give hope to us in the media that sometimes, there is justice to be got. TV journalists need to push to get covered by the act, as well.

At the time, Bal felt he was asked to leave because of a critical article about Narendra Modi. He is now political editor at Caravan.



Far more disturbing is this experience recounted by Vinod Jose, executive editor of Caravan, about how he was treated at a Global Conference on Media Freedom, organised in the UK. Jose was invited to speak about religion and the media. As he finished his presentation, Surya Prakash, head of Prasar Bharati shouted from the audience that Jose had presented India in a bad light. Prasar Bharati is India’s public broadcaster and of course is a government mouthpiece.

Jose’s account is here:




For a change, let’s end with some inspiring stuff, even as ISRO prepares for its delayed launch of Chandrayaan 2 mission. July 19 is the 50thanniversary of Apollo 11’s journey to the moon, with the landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrinon July 20. The Google Doodle is a real classic for our times, with astronaut Mike Collins, who remained in moon orbit, recounting what happened on those days. Goose-bumpy, spine-tingling stuff, in a perfect way!


I know the world is on Google but still, you can never get enough of this!



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