Ranjona Banerji: Would you call Arnab Goswami’s accusations and verbal pyrotechnics journalism?

24 Apr,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

I have debated over this. What is the significance of TV personality Arnab Goswami’s massive attack on Sonia Gandhi on his drama channel and then the subsequent attack he reported where someone threw ink on his car? Goswami has long since stopped being a journalist. He had his good and bad moments when he was one. But his last years at Times Now and then his shift to Republic TV ended his career as a journalist. He could be a called a mediaperson, inasmuch as anyone who appears on or works with or owns some form of public communication is a media person. But being a journalist and being a mediaperson are not the same. As members of the viewing public intuitively seem to know when they dismissively say: “woh media-walleh”. “Those” media people indeed.

So how exercised am I supposed to get, as a journalist? Throwing ink on a car while on a motorcycle late at night? Not nice. Whoever did it. As for Goswami’s rant against Gandhi, where he accused her of instigating the lynching of three Hindu holy men in Palghar? It sounds a bit… I don’t quite know what word to use for TV personalities like Goswami whose accusations and verbal pyrotechnics are unmatched by fact or research. All very Whatsapp forward in its very bilious and poisonous nature. You can’t even classify such performances as informed opinion. When you factor in that Goswami largely operates as a mouthpiece for the BJP and for its Hindutva agenda, even his claim to journalistic rights comes to an end.

Goswami, just before his rant, publicly resigned from the Editors Guild for not doing enough about the Palghar lynching. However, in keeping with its pusillanimous nature and its general inability to separate “journalist” from “government mouthpiece”, the Guild promptly issued a statement condemning the ink chucking incident. But because escalating the RSS’s Hindutva agenda, fomenting hatred, otherising religious minorities and lower castes, are probably accepted as normal by the Guild, no official comment has been made on a TV personality accusing an opposition politician of masterminding murder without any substantiating evidence except “I believe”. I think the Guild classifies all that as “freedom of expression”.

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Meanwhile, and here’s the thing, India and the world remain in turmoil over Covid19 and its effects, not just on the health but on every aspect of human life. While enough social media discussion was wasted on this created drama, there is confusion enough over testing kits, PPE for health workers, the effects of lockdown, the infection rate, the trajectory of the virus, the number of possible treatments floating about, the state of the economy, the condition of labourers, slum-dwellers, the medical community… And journalists themselves. Actual journalists, that is.

Of which, let us not forget, 53 in Mumbai alone have tested positive for Covid19. Journalists have had sections of the law reserved for terrorists applied to them, for covering the effects of the virus.

This report from the CPJ, Committee to Protect Journalists, explains how freelance journalists across the world risk their lives to cover the virus.

https://cpj.org/blog/2020/04/freelance-journalists-risk-lives-and-livelihoods-a.php

Barkha Dutt, a TV personality of higher esteem than Goswami and a journalist, has relentlessly covered the plight of India’s labourers, health workers, the underprivileged on her Youtube channel, Mojo, for the past month, since the lockdown began. I have criticised Dutt in the past, but this has been an excellently presented, searing, hard-hitting series, much needed in these times of obfuscation and cover-ups. She has given voice to India’s forgotten and ignored and shown us so much that is wrong with our society. Kudos!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrdPiSPVW0rtRsI002BX8iw?reload=9

 

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In the good news section, the prestigious Laadli media awards have extended their deadline for submissions up to May 31. All explained in the screenshot. The website for details: www.populationfirst.org

 

As for Goswami, well, I have already wasted enough mind space on his strangeness. Howard Beale comes to mind…

On which note, I will however recommend the 1976 film Network again for all journalists.

 

 

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

 

 

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