When legendary Indian Express journalist Kuldip Nayyar heard the midnight knock on his door during the Emergency, he knew Indira Gandhi’s police had come for him. At Delhi’s Tughlak Road Police Station, an IPS officer fell at his feet and called him his guru. It is unlikely any cop would fall at Arnab Goswami’s feet let alone worship him as his guru.
Nayyar was close to Prime Minister Gandhi and her ministers. Once Indira cut her hair and asked him how she looked. He gallantly replied that she is beautiful, but now looks even more beautiful. This intimacy didn’t stop him from writing against her for which he was jailed. Today, Arnab, scared of being arrested by the Mumbai Police for fixing TRPs, is hiding in an undisclosed location in Uttar Pradesh, perhaps hoping the Yogi Adityanath Administration will protect him.
The anchor’s boast in leaked WhatsApp messages that “all ministers are with us” as if they belong to Republic TV, and not the Republic of India would not have been received kindly by the powers that be. Arnab had graduated from stenographer to spokesman in his own eyes. “Amit Shah is now the MIB… as in whoever comes doesn’t matter,” he boasts. As if the country’s Home Minister has nothing better to do than help out a sycophantic TV channel—there are so many of them that you can’t tell the difference. Politics is politics. Journalism is journalism.
To mix both is a deadly cocktail because the high comes from wielding power that is not yours. Vicarious clout is the TV journalist’s ultimate schtick—to be seen as a favourite by politicians while all they are considered by netas is dispensable household help. Arnab is not the only one. In 2010, in the infamous Radia Tapes, TV journalist Barkha Dutt is heard fixing ministerial berths in the UPA government. A reporter who joins a TV channel owned by former Congress minister Kapil Sibal leaves nobody in doubt that desperation obviates objectivity, integrity be damned.
Arnab is being pilloried by the Opposition as a traitor who betrayed national secrets with exclusive reportage on the Balakot airstrikes. It is a journalist’s job to break stories, and there is nothing wrong with getting advance information from a top source.
Nor was it unethical to scoop the removal of special status to J&K. Arnab’s channel has broken great news stories like infiltrating terror organisations, the Lalu tapes that toppled the Bihar government etc. Sadly, his shrill partisanship and amoral witch-hunting cloud his achievements.
A redoubtable editor brought down a Union government by publishing the Jain Commission report. Maharashtra CM A R Antulay had to resign because the Indian Express broke the cement scam story. The difference between a television journalist like Arnab and his compatriots in print is that he used his self-claimed proximity with the government to try twist the system, sabotage his competitors, get innocent people like Rhea Chakraborty sent to jail on false drug and murder charges and try to (unsuccessfully) get a pal a PMO posting.
The arrogance of his delusions was so great he believed that Republic TV’s Balakot story helped Modi win the 2019 elections. The stereotypical trope about the media is the hard-drinking journalist. Celeb anchors like Arnab Goswami are drunk on power. They don’t expect the hangover to be so deadly when they wake up to reality.
Ravi Shankar email@example.com