Ranjona Banerji: Has Indian media’s crawling sycophancy for 6 years rendered it incapable?

06 Mar,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


The conversation about the Delhi riots or pogrom or violence or let’s discuss both sides, whichever way it is presented to you, is still going on. The delay in the courts taking up the matter, the fact that the citizenship crisis that brought us here is yet to be discussed by our eminent jurists, the violence in Meghalaya, all these issues are still muted. In spite of the spread and reach of social media, we still have parts of the country ignorant about what’s happening in the rest of it.

Should one make allowances for the media because there are too many fires to cover and the State is unwilling to put them out? That’s assuming the state has the will to put them out and is not actually fanning the flames. The economy went off the headlines for a bit, as protests and violence dominated the news.

But the collapse of Yes Bank has once more brought our complete lack of economic hope to front and centre. This is not a cooperative bank. This is a full-fledged public limited bank. How loud is the anger, even as the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman goes on about this fantasy of 45 trillion economy? The scuttlebutt says that the government line is to blame the last UPA government and Raghuram Rajan. Which means effectively that six years of Modi’s greatness could do nothing to save this bank or anything else. Watch whatever media you watch very carefully to see how this one is played.

The Employees Provident Fund has cut its interest rates to the lowest in decades. Together with the income tax reforms that weren’t reforms, this will further cripple the salary paying middle classes. Inflation, which consumed our media coverage for the last few years of UPA 2, now barely makes an appearance. You know how much you spend every time you shop, don’t you? Fuel prices, how are we with that? Cooking gas?

Let’s look at Covid 19, as the latest coronavirus has been named. How much attention has been paid to government action, compared to either spreading panic by publicising unsubstantiated guff or allowing government functionaries and BJP members to fill the news space with unmitigated ignorant rubbish about cow dung and cow urine being cures for the virus? Imagine if any other government was in power.

There is an imminent global public health crisis on hand, if it is not here already. What we have been informed is that prime minister is not going to play Holi and the Union home minister has cancelled his latest round of speeches to ignite hatred over citizenship. Big deal. How about all the strong, urgent and well-planned steps that this Narendra Modi-led efficient government is taking to tackle outbreaks of Covid 19? Or is the media going to allow it to get away with the Centre-versus-state excuse?

India’s supplicant media has turned into our biggest burden in these times. Just when we need a strong media, our colleagues and their owners still flounder in messes of their own making. Their crawling sycophancy for six years has made them incapable it seems. I just feel that I’m repeating myself but what option do I have? How many maddening debates of high-pitched hatred can Indian audiences bear before someone says STOP? Evidently, in spite of everything that has gone wrong, people still lap this up.

Ayush Tiwari of Newslaundry has analysed media reports on the death of IB employee Ankit Sharma during the Delhi riots and done his own research to demonstrate just how badly the Indian media has failed. It is as if every lesson from covering riots has been forgotten. Tiwari’s story is one of the few small sparks which still burn, and give us hope about the integrity of small independent media rather than big media houses.



Meanwhile, one of India’s richest businessman, Sachin Bansal (Flipkart) has been accused of dowry harassment by his wife. Bansal’s response has been a media gag order. Thus do the rich and powerful get away with everything. How about a TV debate on that?


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



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