Ranjona Banerji: Do Studio Boys prancing in camouflage vests make for war correspondents?

19 Jun,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Cliché time: War or the possibility of war brings up conflicting emotions in a populace. Excitement, fear, patriotism, sorrow, foreboding, vigour, loyalty and so on.

Them war correspondents are the stars of the journalism world to some. The face huge dangers, they are in the thick of battle, they report on conflict and often make the biggest sacrifice. No wonder India’s studio boys prance around in front screens and desks wearing camouflage vests. This is their moment to shine, after all. Or is it?

War correspondents do all this to get the viewers and readers the best, most comprehensive story. They report on war itself and the cost of war. Often, this can mean facts in opposition to their government’s chosen positions or claims.

Not of course for India’s studio boys. Brought up on bravery stories of the first Gulf War, they are all “patriots”, they will remain embedded even if no one has asked them to. It’s Goebbels beats journalism every single time.

So as horror stories about exactly what China was doing in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley broke, the India media faced its usual Peter Arnett versus Leni Riefenstahl moment. Obviously, to a large extent especially on TV, Riefenstahl won. The propaganda to keep the Fuehrer’s image glowing is always more important than the truth.

The nuggets of truth that we did get came from a small band of defence analysts and journalists, many of them former military. From Ajai Shukla to Sushant Singh to H S Panag, they painted a picture that was not complimentary to the Indian military leadership or political leadership. And the details of the picture were horrific: of clashes fought with medieval torture instruments with high casualties on the Indian side.

Rahul Kanwal of India Today TV had a little Twitter tantrum as people began questioning why the Narendra Modi-led government had neither responded to the threat from China nor addressed the nation. Questions to Modi from what he called a “bunch of Cassandras” are absolutely verboten in the Patriotic Propaganda Journalist Handbook. That Cassandra was cursed so that no one believed her when she told the truth is another matter. A simple Google search could have fixed that but perhaps TV studios prefer WhatsApp to Google as a source of news or news curation.

This is definitely true when it comes to Times Now. Both its main stars Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar read out with great glee a list of 30 names of Chinese soldiers killed by Indian forces. As it turned out, this was a fake list.

It fell upon Alt News to inform the public that the Times Now list was not just unverified but patently fake. All the usual suspects like BJP trolls and the retired Major General Bakshi painstakingly followed the directive and spread the fake word around.

https://www.altnews.in/times-now-falls-for-fake-whatsapp-forward-listing-names-of-30-dead-chinese-soldiers/

The Times of India group runs some sort of a fake news checker but either Times Now is not allowed access or this fake news checker does not really exist.

On Aaj Tak, the anchor Shweta Singh decided that the Modi government had to be spared all blame for the fiasco in Ladakh – and new horrific information surfaces everyday no thanks to these ghastly people masquerading as journalists – and decided to blame the Armed Forces instead. In other times, these same plywood patriots take even a mild questioning of the Armed Forces like a major assault on India and demand treason laws be applied to those who dare to raise a voice.

Others, from Smita Prakash of ANI, another government mouthpiece to Sagorika Ghose with more serious journalism creds but still does not know better, decided to blame Rahul Gandhi of the Congress Party and the Opposition in general for not doing a good enough job at running India.

How far this absolution of the Modi government continues by these so-called journalists will determine how long India’s freefall into disaster continue. So far it’s Modi winning the propaganda war all the way and Journalism zero.

And when journalists try to do their basic job, the might of the state comes down on them. The fakes wear camouflage vests inside their studios. Supriya Sharma of Scroll.in has got a series of charges filed against her for daring to do a series of articles on human hardship and misery caused by our various unplanned lockdown. Sharma’s biggest crime? She focused on Modi’s parliamentary constituency of Varanasi.

Scroll.in stands by her work which was truly excellent.

https://scroll.in/latest/965045/up-fir-against-scroll-ins-supriya-sharma-for-report-on-impact-of-lockdown-in-pms-constituency

https://scroll.in/article/964072/in-varanasi-village-adopted-by-prime-minister-modi-people-went-hungry-during-the-lockdown

 

This is courage in these terrible times. As for our friends in TV, they have failed every single test. You can rest assured they will all get handsome government awards for their treachery to journalism. Pulitzers? Naah, that’s for anti-nationals, right?

 

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

 

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