Ranjona Banerji: Democracy?!

01 Oct,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


Here’s a turn up for the ages. India is one of the signatories to the International Partnership on Information and Democracy at the UN General Assembly. This move was orchestrated by the organisation Reporters Without Borders to “promote democratic principles in the online public arena”.


“In an appeal to more than 50 foreign ministers and 20 representatives from delegations attending today’s launch of the “Alliance for Multilateralism” at the UN, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said: “If the democracies don’t set the rules, private interests and dictators will do it for us (…) They are the ones, not parliaments, that have regulated the online information and communication space (…) This is why we have set about rebuilding a system of democratic guarantees adapted to the digital era”.”

It’s quite commendable that India has signed this, but really? How much of this do we believe? This government, with its record of attacking by covert and overt means, both journalists and media owners, is hardly a beacon for the democratic rights of the media. The Prime Minister of India, let us not forget, has not held a press conference with Indian journalists in India, either in this term or the term before. Such is the immense respect that this Narendra Modi-led BJP government has shown for the media.

In fact, the media has been completely stymied and shackled as far as reporting on Kashmir is concerned and it’s almost two months since Article 370 was removed and the state split without so much as a by your leave. The online space loyal to the Modi government has done nothing but spread lies and attack anyone who disagreed with the official line. Fake videos of normality were pushed out through lapdog media channels of the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval hobnobbing with happy locals. That is the extent to which the digital era was used, and democratic guarantees abused.

And we’re not even discussing trolling and abuse by official BJP handles.


Meanwhile, the Indian economy appears to have fallen over the edge. The Twitter conversation between Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and a member of the public demonstrates the desperate lack of preparation by a senior minister and the desperation of the public when it comes to the PMC bank crisis.

This press release by PIB quoted by Sitharaman hardly helps to allay customers and nor does her weak excuse. It’s almost like since one cannot blame Jawaharlal Nehru, why not just dump responsibility on the RBI.


Of course, in other news, the RBI has had to cough up another Rs 30,000 crore to tide over the Centre’s financial irresponsibility.

In any normal society, this would be the only news. How awake is the Indian media to what is happening? Has it recovered from cheerleading for Modi’s publicity events in the US?

While on the US, the move to impeach President Donald Trump seems to be gaining traction. So, is it just as well that Modi came back to India with no deals of any sort at all? Or was the whole trip just about keeping NRIs happy and some campaign ops for Trump anyway?


In other news, my Twitter account @ranjona has been “temporarily restricted” for reasons unknown so am tweeting at @r_banerji until I get the issue resolved which involves international roaming, an OTP and a Vodafone roaming account which claims to be active but does not work!


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



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