Ranjona Banerji: When Propaganda and Chamcha outlets are lauded & patronised

16 Feb,2021

By Ranjona Banerji


The Enforcement Directorate is the go-to agency for the Government of India when it wants to harass any opposition or stifle free speech. Conduct “raids”, instil fear, suppress dissent and then claim you are a democracy.

The latest target has been newsclick.in, an independent digital media outlet. Run by Prabir Prakayastha and Githa Hariharan, Newsclick has worked on real journalism and given a platform to those journalists whom the mainstream media is too frightened to carry in these times.

The almost week-long raid on Newsclick has followed a number of assaults on the media since the beginning of 2021, including the attempts by the Government to browbeat the social media site Twitter, get them to remove certain accounts of media outlets and journalists, now attempts to attack Twitter as well, file cases against journalists and so on.



Obviously, mainly those outlets and journalists who practise journalism are targeted. Propaganda and chamcha outlets are lauded and patronised. (By the way, can we just make chamcha a regular English word? Sycophancy doesn’t quite cover the scathing colloquialism of chamcha and spoon obviously does not translate.)

My older colleagues are often lost in their own history and apparently cannot get out of the trap of finding a correlation between their past and this present. The young are attacked for either being idealistic and wanting to make a difference or for following the norms set by their seniors: get as much publicity and money as you can.

And my generation, we’re stuck in the middle. We have drunk the milk of a capitalist paradise, but we have not lost the idealism that brought us into this vocation. We watch its collapse. But are helpless to stop it. The basic reason is that many of us have no power. We were unwanted a few years ago as newsrooms got more corporatised. And we are definitely unwanted today when to be “successful” you have to be not just a management stooge but also a government chamcha.

In between my generation and the young, lies the most contentious type of “journalist”. Those with the power but with neither idealism nor courage nor sense. They are the ones you see on your TV screen, the ones behind the scenes in the mainstream journals. They are the ones who present every bit of news in such a way that the government of the day – the Narendra Modi-led BJP government – is happy and ready to reward. They are the ones who have no qualms about vilifying young women – whether Rhea Chakraborty or Disha Ravi – as long as regressive thought and hatred is promoted. They are the ones who will give every single bit of news a Hindu-Muslim or religious angle. They are the ones who will call for a young comedian like Munawar Farooqui to be attacked because he is Muslim.

They are the biggest dangers to journalism today . But as we see with the Newsclick, as we see with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and P Sainath, there is plenty of inspiration to be found in our older colleagues. And in the coverage of the farmers protests, with Saahil Murli Menghani and Sandeep Singh, the younger generation do us very proud indeed.

That’s all we have left. To find hope and perhaps the courage to also speak out from these few voices around us. No matter how popular they are, all those journalists who make excuses for rampaging authority are sellouts.

You can see how dire the situation has become for India’s “free press” when news outlets do not have the courage to stand together with colleagues who are being openly harassed for being journalists. When news outlets still spin just about every atrocity against us to benefit the harasser. When news outlets can ignore this story by Newslaundry only because it has investigated just how the BJP’s social media strategy works.


Forget the Emergency. It had nothing on the current dispensation. Except possibly to leave them a screenplay. And the tremendous irony that those who claim to have fought the Emergency are now the biggest cheerleaders of our current tyrants.


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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