All Praise for Thy Great Leader

27 Apr,2021

Cartoon by Satish Acharya

Courtesy: Satish Acharya


By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiYou know how it is when a government messes up and people die and there is horror, fear and panic everywhere. The media is to blame. Because the media has exposed the government’s incompetence by giving voice to the suffering of the people. The pain of the people, for all fascist regimes, must be kept hidden and secret. The media must concentrate on flowers and happy songs and praise for the Great Leader and his Great Leadership.


In most cases until now, most of the media has sunnily obliged. Mob lynchings, gang rapes, oxygen shortages in hospitals, farmers protests, citizenship protests, migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres in the heat during a pandemic, demonetisation, voting machines behaving oddly, buying of party-hopping politicians, allegations of shady deals and corruption, have all been well covered up with toxic positivity and lies. See how much the Dear Leader cares, see how he feeds peacocks, see how long his n… sorry I mean beard has grown.


Therefore, the Government of India turned on Twitter because it did not like photographs of mass cremations and mass burials being made public. Because how dare anyone, not just the media, criticise the Leader and the Great Government of India which does no wrong?


Twitter, which has been a source of information and solace during these terrible times succumbed to Modi government pressure because it has one policy for America and a contradictory one for India.


It’s worth checking Trevor Noah on The Daily Show about the Modi Government’s demand to Twitter.


How else do we cover up? Most of the world’s media, print, TV and digital, have covered the mess over the Covid second surge in India right now. But the Indian High Commission in Canberra has surpassed itself in the petulant, badly written letter to the editor of The Australian, for its criticism of the Modi government. The letter actually claims that Modi government’s approach to the crisis has been “universally acclaimed”. That BJP offices are part of the known universe is the only way anyone can justify that lie.


If the Modi Government is upset because people are ungratefully dying, gasping for oxygen, medicines and hospitals, can its various high-profile saviours and enablers be far behind? With its change of office-bearers and new-found confidence, the Editors Guild of India issued a strong statement on April 23.


It reads: “The Editors Guild of India is outraged by suggestions from certain influential sections within media, who have been casually and irresponsibly asking for suspension of our fundamental rights to speech and expression, when instead greater accountability is needed from the authorities for gross mishandling of this monumental health crisis”.


The rest of the statement is in the screenshot. It outlines just how difficult it is for the media to operate in such an authoritarian atmosphere. This is not the first time we have seen this. But this Covid Emergency is one of our worst times. All we can see is horrific stories and images of death and suffering and the pleas of both patients, their families, our health workers, and from amongst the public those who have tried to help. All we have seen from the Central government is “headline management” as Arun Shourie put it, grandstanding, politicking and scrambling finally to do too little to late. We have seen lies told to the people and to state governments. We have seen cruel contradictory policies in place over vaccine procurement, pricing, oxygen supplies and medical help. Bad news is what we face and what the people themselves experience.


And of course, we’ve seen irresponsible electioneering. If only the bulk of the media could take courage from the Madras High Court:


A letter, possibly fake, has been doing the rounds, apparently written by the staff of Times Now to its star anchors, Rahul Shivshankar, Navika Kumar and Padmaja Joshi. It says, “Instead of asking questions to Prime Minister Modi for his callous attitude and misgovernance, the editors are hellbent on saving his image and protect him from getting a bad name.”


Whoever has written this, at least feels the shame of bad journalism as practised by some of our worthies.


At the end, a number of media workers have lost their lives to Covid, many in the line of duty. This is a heartfelt tribute written by Siddharth Varadarajan to The Wire’s manager, Radhakrishna Muralidhar who died of Covid complications on Monday, aged 63. Like many who contributed to The Wire, Mr Muralidhar impressed with his efficiency with payment and his kindness to questions from dimwits like me when it comes to money matters.


The list of those lost is long, the most recent being photojournalist Vivek Bendre, and we mourn them all.


As we applaud the growing numbers amongst us who cover this tragedy honestly and without fear.


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


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