Ranjona Banerji: We are cowards

12 Feb,2021

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Did you hear the explosion of outrage in the media? Of course, you didn’t. You didn’t hear it anywhere. You would have, in that other world. Even if the government of the time might have huffed and puffed and prepared to come down on you like a ton of bricks by mentioning it. You would have heard it.

You did hear about a possible coup by a man who is now a minister and had been army chief. You did hear about a massive spectrum scam – later it turned out it was not so massive – that reeked of corruption at the highest level. You did hear about corruption in coal auctions. About corruption in the preparations for the Commonwealth Games. About ministers in the government being spied on by their colleagues. You did hear media outrage when cartoonists were charged with sedition for being cartoonists. When books were banned because they contained possible unsavoury details about India’s first prime minister…

Those were other times, other parties in power, other prime ministers.

It is possible that you don’t remember all this. Maybe you were young. Maybe you have been so brainwashed over the past seven years that you really believe that the job of the media is mainly to promote and propagate the current government in power.

Because, where is the explosion?

The Washington Post two days ago carried a report of an investigation into how the computers of Dalit activists were hacked into and incriminating evidence planted in them. These activists were arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case of January 2018, based on that evidence.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-bhima-koregaon-activists-jailed/2021/02/10/8087f172-61e0-11eb-a177-7765f29a9524_story.html

The Washington Post report is based on the investigation carried out by Arsenal Consulting, an American digital forensics company. Arsenal Consulting found that an attacker had infiltrated Rona Wilson’s computer using malware, inserted 10 letters and these were used by the police to arrest Wilson. That is, false evidence planted by someone has not only led to multiple arrests but also this giant theory of a grand conspiracy of the Indian state.

https://scroll.in/latest/986517/bhima-koregaon-key-evidence-against-accused-activists-was-planted-using-malware-says-report

https://www.newsclick.in/after-washington-post-expos%C3%A9-india-needs-amend-rules-electronic-evidence

You hear the silence? Yes, I have posted three links, one from the international media and two from the Indian (the one from Newsclick is for a reason which will be made clear soon). But as you and I know, unless the whole strength of the media demands answers from those in power, these are just lone voices in the wilderness. The biggest silence is from television, which has the widest reach. And is the biggest purveyor of hatred in India.

We are cowards. So is everyone else in charge. And venality and hatred win as a result.

Some will argue I know that the reason the media is a now just a pool lily-livered jelly blobs is fear of the might of the Indian state. Well guess what. The Indian state didn’t gain its might when Narendra Modi came to power. There has long been a tenuous relationship of contention and reward between the media and the Indian state. However, such mass voluntary genuflection, minus the declaration of an Emergency, is new and despicable.

It is true that those who question get a taste of state brutality. Look at the recent diktats to Twitter to shut down accounts of journalists and some media outlets, the raids on the digital news outlet Newsclick. And yet, it is smaller, independent media houses which show the courage in spite of government retaliation, while too many of our larger big names are either owned by big business with vested interests or are themselves card-carrying members of the hate brigade.

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/media-as-target-the-hindu-editorial-on-ed-searches-at-newsclick-office/article33804248.ece

The Network of Women in Media, India has issued this strong statement in support of Newsclick. Because without small, independent media like this and brave journalists working in large outlets against all odds, there would be no journalism left in India.

“Stop Hounding Independent Media”: NWMI

Intimidation tactics, fake evidence, sedition charges, these are all signs of a totalitarian state. And if you didn’t know that, you were pretending Wake up and stand up now or that chance will be gone. Enjoy your life reproducing press releases.

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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