Ranjona Banerji: Mainstream Media = Government Stooge?

10 Jan,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

One of the funniest headlines in the past week, was this one from Times of India, on January 9, Dehradun edition. It read: “Police get vital clues on masked assailants at JNU”.

Remember that all through Sunday night, as these “masked assailants” rampaged through the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the national capital, videos and photographs of the attackers and their victims were widely shared on social media. Many of these were from news sources, reporters, video-journalists and photo-journalists present at the site. Many journalists were injured by the attackers and the police. ABVP activists have appeared on television identifying those involved in the attacks. Whatsapp groups and their messages have been made public.

The story itself tells you nothing more than the headline, but the first line of the article is another possible headline: “Delhi police yet to make any arrest three days after attack on JNU”.

Other news outlets carried similar headlines but with an essential rider: “Centre says police have vita clues…”

And so the mainstream media, in these almost fascist times, reports on what is happening but disguises its own work at the same time.

The Indian Express carries this headline, January 9, on the recent Maharashtra Zilla Parishad elections: “Local body polls: BJP loses Nagpur, wins most seats”.

In case you are confused, the BJP lost in Nagpur, badly. Across the other five, the BJP won in Dhule, others won elsewhere and so on. But this headline again tells you the BJP loses but also applies some salve on BJP wounds by telling you that it won, overall, more seats that the other parties, but it did not, umm, actually win.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/local-body-polls-bjp-loses-nagpur-wins-most-seats-6207058/

This spin is what has given the mainstream media its current reputation, of being a government stooge, of being unable to do its primary job and of lying to its customers just to keep the ruling party at the Centre happy.

We appear to have reached a tipping point as a nation and yet not all of us seem to be aware of this. There is a video doing the rounds on social media of TV anchor Anjana Om Kashyap of Aaj Tak talking about how the combination of the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register can be a disaster for India. Kashyap is well-known as a BJP supporter and is one of those in the media who have enabled the Central government and its ruling party in its toxic anti-Muslim, anti-minority, pro-majoritarian Hindu agenda.

https://scroll.in/video/949165/establishment-friendly-news-anchor-anjana-om-kashyap-says-caa-and-nrc-can-be-a-lethal-combination

What is one to make of this?

At the moment, cynicism rules.

The enormous “Bharat bandh” called by trade unions and other unions on January 8… Was it enormous? Did we discuss it? Was it front page headlines everywhere? This is Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2020-01-08/strike-over-modi-s-economic-policies-disrupts-banks-transport?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR0Vxp8YVVFUumi9Vg5JJpYGuuVNzOW9Zt9j5sluyDgdXnGIu5etk7mht5M

That’s 25 crore or 250 million people. International conversation on Twitter is amazed, because that’s the population of quite a few countries. Well, some Indian media outlets discussed the inconvenience caused and others discussed the lack of inconvenience caused. Because at the core of this mass anger was the Narendra Modi-led government and its various dangerous, incompetent and people-unfriendly policies.

Speaking of the eminent prime minister, faced with news that there would be anti-CAA protests in Assam, Narendra Modi cancelled his trip to Guwahati to inaugurate the Khelo India Youth Games 2020. That is, the prime minister of a country refuses to go to a part of the country which has a state government rules by his party because…? He is frightened? He cannot face democratic protests? He cannot be questioned? Anywhere else in the democratic world, this would have been the only story of the day.

Meanwhile, students have been brutally thrashed again in Delhi. Protests continue. The common woman and man and child are all making their voices heard, with or without media amplification. Because too many are still checking with the ruling party for orders.

And we’re just 10 days into 2020. Imagine that emoji shrug right here.

 

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

 

 

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