Ranjona Banerji: Right-wing media is exceptionally stupid!

23 Apr,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

I was accused of optimism after Tuesday’s column. Because I had suggested that parts of India’s media had started reporting correctly on the massive Covid-19 emergency that India now faces.

The accusation is partly true. I did express hope at a return to journalism as I know it. Because sections of the Indian media are doing some sterling work in both reportage and commentary. But the awful truth is that too many newsrooms continue to play that diabolical double game of praise and criticism of the Central government. Most are quick to take state governments to task. Some will allow government members to fill their comment sections with vicious tosh. And those big enough, will have different standards for their different outlets. TV says one thing, the newspaper the opposite and so on.

But given the crisis that India faces today and the fact that the major responsibility lies with the all-powerful Narendra Modi government at the Centre, it is truly cringe-worthy to see our major “news” channels continuing with their Modi publicity campaigns. Like CNN-News18 running a show headed by Anand Narasimhan which asks whether “Anti-India lobbies are hijacking the narrative” and hashtagged his show The Right Stand, for April 22, with “defame India plot”.

Thousands of Indians are dying presumably to give Modi a bad name. How inconsiderate and mean of them. Narasimhan also questioned anger with Modi when he felt that all the blame lay with various state governments for the Covid mess. Several people pointed out to him that Modi had invoked two disaster management acts to control the pandemic. Also, common sense suggests that a national pandemic needs a national response. The virus does not respect manmade borders. I can’t believe I had to actually write that, but the right-wing media is exceptionally stupid.

Later, I saw that members of the BJP IT Cell were pushing the “blame the states” line. I realised then that perhaps media personalities like Narasimhan were just following their boss’s orders. The same channel also employs TV stars who regularly publicise government press releases. In my days, government press releases would be consigned to some thin column on an inside page with no byline. Now these stars happily give up their independence to tell us when Modi is campaigning where.

The number of people defaming India and Modi by dying is growing by the day.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/world/india-coronavirus-record.html

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/04/24/indias-giant-second-wave-is-a-disaster-for-it-and-the-world?utm_campaign=the-economist-today&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud&utm_term=2021-04-22&utm_content=article-link-1&etear=nl_today_1

 

No one trusts the numbers.

https://www.ft.com/content/683914a3-134f-40b6-989b-21e0ba1dc403

 

The oxygen crisis is real.

https://scroll.in/article/992928/how-grave-is-indias-oxygen-emergency-worse-than-the-government-admits

The pain and suffering are real:

https://www.bloombergquint.com/coronavirus-outbreak/hope-and-heartbreak-on-indian-covid-twitter

The world knows the pain is real:

https://thewire.in/media/covid-19-india-surge-oxygen-global-media-reports-modi

But the stars of CNN-News18 think all this is a plot to defame India. And believe their duty is to inform us about Modi’s travel schedule.

A quick mention of India Today star Rajdeep Sardesai, who many feel is one of the “saner” stars of television. He put out a tweet that the farmers protests must stop. A neat deflection from the Modi-made crisis in India. Or perhaps a parallel instruction to blame state governments and farmers for India’s massive spike in Covid numbers. The Kumbh Mela, that gathering of Hindu holy men and Hindu pilgrims, held this year in Haridwar, which has created a huge Covid crisis in Uttarakhand, which the Himalayan state is ill-equipped to deal with? What’s that? Never heard of it.

My Dehradun edition of the Times of India is now full of Covid-19 “bad news” to defame India. Many of these articles are based on the huge problems which the Kumbh Mela caused. Testing centres are overflowing with people, hospitals are overstretched, we are in a lockdown of sorts because of the desperate need to set up an anti-India narrative. I am being sarcastic for all you idiots out there. I don’t mean the geniuses at CNN-News18 obviously.

Social media is full of desperate cries for help. And social media has stepped up to help. Twitter has been an amazing repository of information and a gathering of communities to provide assistance across India.

https://www.reuters.com/world/india/twitter-becomes-platform-hope-amid-despair-indias-covid-crisis-2021-04-21/

**

I’ll end with my personal take on this Covid emergency, having spent a lifetime in journalism. Every newsroom worth its salt is anti-establishment. And when you face a crisis of this proportion, you have no option but to take the government in power to task. Hold them up to account. Find out as much as you can about what went wrong and why. Bring the humanitarian story to your readers and viewers.

In earlier times, media houses would openly call for the government in power, the government responsible for this massive devastation of human life and livelihood, to go. There would be calls for resignation.

That world is gone. Now according to the media, the dead are out to defame an incompetent dictator.

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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