Not News, Capitulation

28 Jan,2022

 

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Ranjona BanerjiWith election season upon us, India’s media has happily settled into the usual routine of pitting this politician against the next. This is fine, as far as it goes. Part and parcel of the general job.

 

However, what you will not get a sense of is how much else is happening around us that drastically affects these state elections, or, conversely, how these state elections may well affect our political future as a republic.

 

The top of that list has to be the Covid-19 pandemic. That election rallies are on hold because of the extent of the spread of the third wave underlines our topmost crisis. For the media to get Covid fatigue would be disastrous. This must be our priority, whether the extent of the infectiousness or government policy. Over and over again, we find the media falling in with the government line of the number of vaccinations given without taking into consideration India’s population of 1.3 billion. This would be obvious to a Class X student but apparently not to the bulk of the Indian media.

 

Although vaccinations are being done, the number of options pending approval and the international variations which have to jump through innumerable hoops which Indian vaccines were not made to do has to be kept under close observation.

 

Allied to the pandemic are its effects, the economy being the main one. And in spite of high inflation rates, low manufacturing rates, increasing joblessness, some because of government incompetence and others because of the pandemic, we still seem happy to parrot and repeat government publicity without adequately countering it.

 

There is anger in India and frustration: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/huge-protests-over-railways-exam-train-vandalised-bogie-set-on-fire-10-updates-11643207686896.html

 

How has the media handled this? With more Modi government propaganda, of course.

 

 

The enormous hoopla around Republic Day this year, the removal of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn Abide with Me, the extinguishing of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the appropriation of Netaji Subhas Bose point to the second enormous crisis facing India now. The RSS-led Modi government is clearly relentless in its plan to bulldoze India’s history, both contemporary and old, and replace it with an imaginary Hindu-centric fantasy tale.

 

That the media should be culpable in this will be our biggest shame; and yet.

 

Rather than question the government, media outlets are full of RSS-BJP stooges from “historians”, former Armed Forces personnel, and right-wing propagandists supporting and applauding every Modi government move.

 

It remains a small group of media houses, usually independent and digital, which stand firm in their commitment to journalism:

https://thewire.in/government/bose-hologram-rajpat-projects-modi-high-tech

 

This explains why the constant attack on religious minorities and the socially and developmentally vulnerable remains under-reported in the Indian media. And even worse, some media outlets have no qualms about increasing hatred through their programmes. A section of journalists and prominent people took on the channel News18, owned by Mukesh Ambani and still in partnership with CNN, for its Islamophobia:

https://www.jantakareporter.com/entertainment/sponsoring-hate-business-for-mukesh-ambani-indias-richest-man-faces-backlash-after-news18-tv-found-promoting-islamophobia/392346/

 

This is nothing new for News18 or indeed for most Indian news channels. It is by such means that the fact of being Muslim will become anathema to Hindus in India. The upsurge in attacks on Christians and the constant attacks on Sikhs as the farmers’ protest against Modi’s farm laws began all point to a very frightening direction.

 

But we are in election mode. Therefore, BJP candidates being chased out of villages and the constituencies with get minimal media coverage. And the various arms of the government’s harassment tools like the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and so on being let loose on opposition politicians will get constant exposure.

 

This is not news. This is capitulation.

 

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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