Ranjona Banerji: The state of Indian journalism today is statist

12 Jun,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


“Imagine a situation where the most powerful and popular government Independent India has ever known questions the Opposition on government failures and the media plays along with it” asks Ranjona Banerji

I really do try and find good news about the media. Like Masrat Zahra winning this year’s prestigious Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award, given out by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

And congratulations are in order. But the minute you delve into the back story, what do you get? Masrat Zahra is a Kashmiri photojournalist who earlier this year was charged under a terrorist act by the government, for doing her job. That is, uploading photographs on to social media. The Indian State working its hardest to criminalise journalists, not uncommon in these times.

So there’s good news and there’s good news. The good news is that a small group of journalists actually do their job. And the rest of the news is that the larger group are as usual at the far end of their elliptical orbit around basic journalism.

Veteran journalist and champion of the forgotten India P Sainath says in his latest gut-wrenching podcast on the state of India today:

“The newspapers that have woken up to COVID are the ones which are shedding journalists like confetti.

“The biggest media owner in the country is also the richest Indian in the world.

“We are the only country in the world which has TV channels which cover the neighbouring country more than their own.

“When the solicitor-general took off the media, I was wondering which media was he talking about? 95% of the media are with him.”

He’s correct of course, on every single point. And the most damning is this:

“A prominent editor on his own online TV thing says “never waste a good crisis”. That this is the time to ram through labour reforms. What does it say about the Indian elite and their cruelty and absolute rapaciousness and ruthlessness toward the less privileged sections of society?”

The state of Indian journalism today is statist. Anyone who counters or questions the government narrative too closely or intensely gets charged with sedition or terrorism or loses their job. Goebbels must be laughing his head off that his Nazi propaganda-and-lie tactics have been so ardently copied by a supposed democracy almost a century later.

Here is Sainath:


The other person laughing their head off will be Indira Gandhi. The same group that allegedly fought the Emergency she imposed on the behalf of “democracy” as they claimed have now used her ideas and taken them further: an undeclared emergency in India with even more trimmings.


The Chinese incursion into India is a case in point. To raise questions about the incursion is an act of anti-national proportions. The same BJP which raised hellfire and brimstone over lack of military action by earlier governments is now mealy-mouthed and silent over entries into Indian territory at two points. Diplomacy, the Modi government’s various pet media houses, is the key. Diplomacy however is cowardice when anyone else does it?

Or at least so our cowardly mainstream media believes, as it blames Nehru, Rahul Gandhi and so on for whatever’s happening in India.

Imagine a situation where the most powerful and popular government Independent India has ever known questions the Opposition on government failures and the media plays along with it?


We still haven’t any acknowledgement from The Print India on its Islamophobic misogynistic columnist Abhijit Iyer-Mitra. Presumably we won’t now. But this is one to remember. It goes straight to The Print India’s credibility. When Iyer-Mitra’s mentor, or so people say, politician Subramanian Swamy currently with the BJP, wrote an edit page article for DNA in 2011 asking that Muslims should be denied voting rights in India, there were consequences. Right down to Harvard cancelling his teaching assignments. But as we well know, since the BJP came to power in 2014, Islamophobia is now teflon-coated and indeed encouraged. As the Print India’s stance demonstrates.


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

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