Ranjona Banerji: Much Muck on Journalism

01 Dec,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


I almost felt I should write about a new series called Bollywood Wives streaming on an online service somewhere. Because what is there to write about most of the Indian media? That too many journalists and their owners are cowardly scum? That too many journalists have more than one owner?

As we have seen so many times in the past six years, Indians take to the streets to convey their pain, anger and distress. The Centre’s response is to crush physically and ignore substantively. The media’s response is to applaud the Centre for its novel approach to democracy and for the sold-out commentariat to lecture the people on how this novel approach of calibrated cruelty is in electoral masterstroke.

How many times have I said this already? Let’s wade in again!

Farmers across India are on the streets outside Delhi. The Union Home Minister went to Hyderabad to campaign for local municipal elections. The Prime Minister went to his constituency, Varanasi, for a laser light show. The Home Minister made speeches where he said he would wipe out Hyderabad’s “nizami-nawabi culture” and make Hyderabad a “mini Bharat”. The Prime Minister said the farm reforms that farmers were protesting against were the best things ever and farmers had already benefitted. The UP chief minister who is in charge of the worst run state in India also campaigned for municipal elections in a city in another state and promised to improve it. The Haryana government and the Delhi Police used vandalism and violence to stop the farmers from reaching the National capitals. BJP IT trolls and their friendly journalists claimed that all this was a Khalistani plot and also inferred that it was an Islamist plot because biryani, India’s most terrifying combination of meat and rice, was served to farmers.

The cruel, callous incompetence of the Modi government is at every stage assisted by its captive media.

Because. Imagine any other government at any other time.

Every “masterstroke” applauded by the media has been a disaster for the country. And yet too many of us are unable to call it as it is. Instead we wrap ourselves in bogus analyses: how clever the move was, how if you get votes the effects of your bad decisions are negated, how if no one murders someone else the move was justified, how the Opposition is solely to blame for not learning or using these same tricks or conversely how the BJP has learnt these tricks from the Opposition and bettered them.

All these are deflection tactics. They avoid the truth of the pain, despair and misery on the ground. Therefore, the farmers of Punjab must be Khalistani terrorists, they have obviously been “misled”, opposition parties are “politicising” the protests and various other excuses. The fact that the farmers have questions is cleverly ignored.

It is hardly surprising then that TV reporters on the ground, from TV channels like Aaj Tak and Zee, have been chased away by farmers. If Sudhir Chaudhury of Zee calls farmers “terrorists”, what standing will a Zee reporter have with the farmers on the streets? TV channels like these have not just destroyed TV journalism and flung muck on all journalists, they also put their own employees in jeopardy. All for the cause of Modi glory and Hindu majoritarianism.

This report from newslaundry.com makes the anger of India’s farmers with such channels clear:


If you have watched TV reporters from all channels questioning India’s farmers, their tone is almost always confrontational. This would be fine as a style, if only they used the same tone every time they questioned a BJP government. (I can’t mention daring to question Modi because he takes no questions from the media.) Rather, too many of these “journalists” position themselves as government spokespersons daring the people of India to disagree with the Modi government.

Listen closely. The farmers at least disagree.

Maybe I should just watch Bolly Whines?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Thursday. Her views here are personal

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