Cheap sensationalised news handling by television has brought shame to India. Not a new development, it was left to Nepal to expose this internationally. Ironically, and in entirely different contexts, many Indian netas also have suddenly found it convenient to blame the media for the problems they face. Aam Aadmi’s Arvind Kejriwal has gone to the extent of calling for a public trial of the media. That would be nice. A public trial will bring out the double-standards of selfish politicians as well.
We cannot blame the Nepalese who created a special GoHomeIndianMedia platform to bring unpleasant truths to light. From the time Narendra Modi said that it was from his tweet that Nepal’s Prime Minister first knew about the earthquake, our media has been focusing on India and Indian humanitarianism rather than on the catastrophe that had struck the Nepalese people. Locals resented Indian aircraft blocking the Kathmandu airport, Indian journalists taking up helicopter space that could have been better used for relief material, Indian medical teams getting bogged down in their own bureaucracy even as countries like Israel set up field hospitals in no time. They talked of Indian media’s “aggressive presence” and its tendency to treat the human tragedy as a public relations exercise for New Delhi.
These impressions aired by Nepalese people would not surprise Indian viewers who are continuously appalled by the jingoistic posturings of several of our news channels, especially those noted for their loudness. Shouting is the weapon of the loser, yet some of our channels have shouted themselves into a culture of pre-judgment and opinionated arrogations, giving their targets no chance to put in a word, let alone explain their positions. Perhaps India’s social media activists must tell their counterparts in Nepal that Indians too are disgusted with the self-righteous screamings of the channel masters.
While Nepalese displeasure with Indian media is sustainable, India’s political leaders suddenly charging the media with all kinds of sins is a very different matter. They attack the media in order to hide their own iniquities. Let us get a basic point clarified. The standards of journalism have gone down in recent years. The media no longer commands the credibility it once did. Journalism also has been eroded by corruption. Some of the big names in the profession have been caught lobbying for vested interests. These are legitimate grounds for attacking the media. But that is not what our politicians are doing. They are attacking because the media does not act as their megaphones, because the media reports things which are inconvenient to this neta or that.
Recall policemen in West Bengal’s secretariat telling journalists, “don’t loiter around or you will be arrested”. It is the duty of journalists to loiter around government offices. But Mamata Banerjee was not interested in people knowing anything about the Saradha scam which the media was reporting. Journalists were barred from courts where the case was being heard and also from CBI and Enforcement Directorate offices. Mamata justified it all by saying that her government was the best in the world (yes, she said that) and that the media was merely indulging in “news pollution”.
Prime Minister Modi himself, the recipient of unprecedented, even fawning, media coverage (no national leader in the past has had his speeches and mega events like the Madison Square Garden spectacle broadcast in full by the channels) said the other day that “the media has taken upon itself the responsibility of spreading lies against me”. That’s an unkind cut, especially when armies of cyber activists are ever present to demolish Modi critics in various sites.
If there is a prize for intolerance, it must go to Arvind Kejriwal. He and the Aam Aadmi movement were in fact the creation of the media in the early days. But for the enthusiasm with which the media projected his ideas and goals, even condoned his early mistakes, he would never have scored the victory he did in the last elections. But power changed him overnight into just another politician, the party getting splintered by infighting. His chosen faithfuls are now facing charges on their own, ranging from fake university qualifications to misconduct with women associates. Big leader Kejriwal’s response to it all is that news channels are biased towards the BJP, that opinion polls are rigged, that media outlets take money to peddle news. There is nothing one can say to a man given to such hypocritical imaginations. The only consolation is that he will never again taste another popular victory.