Ranjona Banerji: Tragic. Despicable. Unethical

18 Feb,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

One thing appears to be clear. When it comes to Muslims, India’s media houses continue to ready and eager to play along with as much government-sponsored and/or BJP-RSS-sponsored anti-Muslim propaganda as they can. Social media in the past couple of days has been full of CCTV footage of December 15, 2019, showing police entering a library at Jamia Milia University, hitting students with sticks and destroying property, including CCTV cameras.

However, India Today TV ran what they claimed was an “uncut video” which showed that students had stones in their hands. Alt News ran this story debunking the India Today “exclusive”, which was then picked up by several other “news” channels, newspapers and news sites.

https://www.altnews.in/jamia-violence-media-misreport-wallet-as-stone-in-students-hand/

As Alt News points out, several media outlets jumped to the police’s defence without even doing some basic investigation of their own. If Alt News could delve a little deeper to question the police’s version of what happened, why couldn’t anyone else?

It is true that when a reporter remains on the same beat, “sources” become like friends and many young journalists are unable to distinguish between having friends and cultivating sources of information. This is stating the obvious: the job of a journalist is to be suspicious of everything. All of us who have spent a few years in the profession know that we have sacrificed many such “friendships” because we did our job.

It is because these fine lines can be transgressed that we have newsrooms where information is supposed to go through several layers. Reports are questioned at various levels and checked not just for grammar but for facts. This minimises mistakes although nothing is fool proof. And we have no shortage of fools.

But in the case of the Jamia footage as it appeared on India Today TV, this appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the viewing public. The way the story was run, “what is a real truth” and so on, shows that this was planned within the newsroom. That it was picked up by other outlets, named in the Alt News link above, only underlines the hold that the BJP and hatred of the “other” has on our newsrooms.

That journalists should try and both further the police’s agenda as well as excuse police violence is both tragic and despicable. The last two months, for example, have been full of instances of journalists being at the receiving end of police lathis. We have also had senior staff at India Today TV take to social media at pains to explain to us idiots how they practice “fair” journalism because they equate death from police brutality with protestors burning a bus. They then throw in one story mildly critical of the government and fly that as proof of “objectivity”.

It is laughable and vastly disrespectful to the few journalists left who still try to use some semblance of ethics in their professional life.

From the condemnable to the laughably condemnable. After six or seven years of pumping up Narendra Modi as the best thing to happen to India in our long history, through her columns in The Indian Express, veteran journalist Tavleen Singh has now had an epiphanic moment. She has discovered that “anti-Muslim prejudice is in Modi’s DNA”. The cynics will say that this realisation only came when her son was targeted for criticising Modi.

But if you watch the interview with Karan Thapar or read the details in the link below, it seems she always knew what Modi was like but continued to support and glorify him.

It’s good for a laugh, so enjoy:

https://thewire.in/video/watch-karan-thapar-interview-tavleen-singh

 

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

 

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