Saturday, July 17, 2010

Media's campaign of calumny


All are equal, media is more equal than all!

Interviewing prospective students for a media school can be a useful experience. It provides you with an insight into how media is perceived among the young who shall inherit the world from us. I usually begin by asking the applicants whether they want to pursue a career in print journalism or in the audio-visual media. During one such interview recently, a young woman told me, “I want to join a news channel.” And do what? “I want to become an anchor.” Why? “I have many things to say and as an anchor I can say anything I want.” What makes you think so? “I watch television regularly. I know.” And why do you think you can actually say whatever you want? That left her slightly flustered. “But we have freedom of expression, right? And media is free in our country, right?” I seemed to have planted doubts in her mind and she wanted me to disabuse her of them. I asked her to tell me about her other interests in life.

I was reminded of that conversation on Friday evening when editors of television news channels, feigning great outrage, queued up to condemn the smashing of glass panes and upturning of potted palms in the lobby of Videocon Tower in Delhi, where the offices of Headlines Today, Aajtak and Mail Today are located, by a crowd of people protesting against the ongoing campaign of calumny against the RSS which is being accused of promoting ‘Hindu terrorism’. The violence was uncalled for, unfortunate and unacceptable. The protest could have been peaceful. Indeed, those leading the protesters should have ensured that no damage was caused on account of the demonstration. Having said that, let us look at what was said in condemnation by editors of other channels.

“This is an attack on freedom of expression. The media is being muzzled. Ideas must be combatted with ideas, not violence. It is despicable and deplorable,” said a news channel editor, virtually frothing at the mouth. Others pitched in with elaborate denunciation of “goons” and “hooligans” — the protesters did not look like either category of social malcontents — and condemned the attack. What was most amusing was to see Ms Ambika Soni, Minister for Information & Broadcasting, waxing eloquent on how the cherished values of our democracy are under assault. Ms Soni heads a Ministry which is a relic of our fake Socialist past when the Government controlled newspapers (there were no news channels then) and information flow by adopting strong-arm tactics — newspapers critical of the Government were denied newsprint quota — and by regulating the release of advertisements — obedience fetched you a greater share. More importantly, her entry into politics was through Sanjay Gandhi’s Youth Congress during the Emergency, when all freedoms and rights, including the right to life, were suspended and journalists who didn’t extol the virtues of the Great Leader were sent to jail. All that and more seems to have been forgotten.

However, we need not be distracted by what certain practitioners of the world’s second oldest profession have to say in defence of their emulating the practices of the world’s oldest profession. It’s a free country and people have the right to say whatever they want. But what is objectionable is the attempt to disguise biased writing and distortion of the truth as “freedom of expression”. The ongoing campaign of calumny to demonise the RSS and denigrate Hindus by painting the first as a sponsor of terrorism and the second as a community of terrorists is by no stretch of the imagination ‘freedom of expression’. Nor does media have the freedom to malign or defame individuals and then seek shelter in its presumed immunity from scrutiny.

Without going into the specifics of the campaign that has been launched to tar the RSS and label Hindus as terrorists, I would like to make three points. First, neither the stories published by some magazines and newspapers nor the reports that have been telecast by some news channels present even a shred of evidence. What we have read, seen and heard so far are aspersions, accusations and alleged admissions, all of it attributed to unnamed sources in the Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation. These have been neither cross-checked nor corroborated with indisputable facts. Second, it is amazing that in a country which is supposed to be governed by the law of the land, there should be such organised trial by media which is really trial by insinuation. Years later, if nothing is proved in a court of law, media will conveniently choose to forget that they had already declared individuals guilty of horrible crimes. Third, since when has speaking to someone on the phone, irrespective of whether or not that person is guilty of having committed a crime, a crime in itself?

There is, of course, the other aspect about the IB and CBI leaking like sieves with a billion holes. If the alleged offence of planting bombs in Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad is to be treated seriously, shouldn’t the agencies be conducting their investigations in absolute secrecy? If they must go public with titillating tid-bits, then IB and CBI offcials should formally brief the media on record. If they are planting stories, as they are doing, then this is no investigation but a political conspiracy: The RSS is being targeted to weaken the BJP. The conspiracy to defame and demonise Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has now been enlarged to hobble the BJP at the national level. There are no prizes for guessing who are the conspirators. Sadly, sections of the media have offered to play the role of co-conspirators. During Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime, few editors stood up against the criminal abuse of power. Most of them chose to crawl when asked to bend. Tragically, many editors have kept up that tradition, offering space on the front page and time during prime-time news bulletins to the Establishment’s dirty tricks department.

This is not about ideology. Nor is it about political loyalties. To suggest so would be as bogus as those crying themselves hoarse that media’s freedom and freedom of expression are under attack. If anything is under attack, if anything is being questioned, is the peddling of fiction as fact under the garb of ‘investigative reporting’. Had it not been so, our ‘free’ media, a large section of which thrives on ‘paid news’, would have reported that the investigating agencies have failed to come up with any evidence to make their charges against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Srikant Prasad Purohit stick. That the courts have refused to let them be tried under MACOCA, saying there was nothing on record to justify such a trial. That it’s been two years since they were arrested and have been in jail without being prosecuted or formally charged.

Or shall we just burn them at the stake because ‘free’ media has pronounced them guilty?

[This appeared as my Sunday column Coffee Break in The Pioneer on July 18, 2010.]

15 comments:

chetan said...

If I remember correctly few years back Two Drunk girls drove there vehicle to PM Residence and claimed they wanted to see PM. Because of some news media was there and they all had only one complaint against those girls crossing some security gate"Evan we are not allowed"and not thinking of is it crime to think and see PM of a Democratically elected PM by its people.

jtmh said...

food for thought:

Replace RSS with Pakistan or ISI and see where reflections lead you.

Hiding behind media's biases, or proof beyond all doubts or media leaks is often a tool used by hardliners/fascists - be they muslim/hindu/sikh.

Media may have biases but we owe it to ourselves to confront unpalatable truths. Otherwise religious bigots win. We only have to see our neighbors to see what militant religious ideology does.

kppradeep said...

High time the BJP comes out with its own TV channel to counter the pseudosecular forces

Ankur Kakkar said...

This is one of the most incisive articles i have read on this blog sir. We are really lucky to have atleast one person in the media who endeavours to provide unbiased reports. Hats off to you for bringing this out.
A lot of things were already known and yet never acknowledged.
It required someone like you to stand up for hindus and for the justice they have long been denied.
If there exists a 'hindu front' or 'rightist front' in india, you are no doubt its forerunner :)

Incognito said...

>>>"“This is an attack on freedom of expression. The media is being muzzled. Ideas must be combatted with ideas, not violence. It is despicable and deplorable,” said a news channel editor"

Ans:
Sure. but what is the reach of the 'combative' or otherwise idea of a common man ?

You(the concerned channel idiotr) controls the channels and thereby the reach of ideas, don't you ? It is therefore your selfish ideas alone that have reach, isn't it ?
It is you who is muzzling the voice of common man.

Some frustrated people may have broken window panes and flower pots. What you daily break is the fabric of this nation, indeed, of the world itself.

Grow up bully, don't hide behind teacher's skirt now like a sissy that you are.

B Shantanu said...

Kanchan-da,
You and your readers may find this post I just published relevant/ useful:

Exploding the Myth of “Hindutva Terror”
http://satyameva-jayate.org/2010/07/19/myth-of-hindutva-terror/

Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!
Shantanu @ http://www.facebook.com/SatyamevaJayate.FanPage

Ayush said...

The English media in India treat themselves as God Incarnate. They are omniscient and their views on every issue is final. How can we mere mortals question them ?
Pl find below an article which explores deeper the conspirancy that has been going on to malign the RSS for the last 85 years.
http://arisebharat.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/rss-bomb-blasts-media-credibility/

Anonymous said...

You are right.

Sensationalism & irresponsible journalism are what I see most often.

Incidentally , now & then I take a sabbatical from reading any newspaper or switching on television. And talking to neighbours , relatives , friends.Focus only on mundane chores like cooking , cleaning & sleeping. Ofcourse reading good books.

Works wonders. Peace is not really that elusive as is thought to be.

M. Patil said...

Meanwhile,

"Congress MLA Vinayak Nimhan and his supporters assaulted and abused a security guard at The Indian Express-Loksatta office here on Sunday, leaving him with a swollen eye and bruised face."

Ofcourse the chattering classes will pretend to be deaf blind and mute.

Anonymous said...

Recall the way NDTV's Pinto , Jennifer Arul , NRam of Hindu plus a plethora of overzealous illinformed cretins poured vitriolic venom on Kaanchi Shankaracharya soon after His "arrest ".

Today , virtually all those who testified against Him confess they were forced at gunpoint to falsely malign Him .

Who is going to hold Prannoy Roys , Barkha dutts , pintos & jennifer aruls accountable for such malicious baseless allegations ???

Manik Ghoshal said...

The following paragraph from the Wikipedia is about the novel ‘Anandamath’ by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The Novel is about an army of Hindu warrior Monks who fight against the soldiers of the Turko-Afghan Nawab of Bengal (mistakenly imagined to be Bengalee by some). It suddenly struck me that if he had been alive today in the Congress Ruled Pseudo-Secular India, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee would be branded a Hindu fundamentalist, terrorist and anti-national, all at the same time by the Editors of our Newspapers and News Channels. That is the extent to which we have bent over to expose and appease. I only wonder how many years more before ‘Vande Mataram’ is replaced by Iqbal’s ‘Saare jahaan se achaa’ as the National Song of India. The ‘communal’ and anti-forigner plot of Anandamath, the novel from which Vande Mataram has been adopted may not yet be known by the Congress High Command. Following is the excerpt about Vande Mataram:
The only novel of Chatterjee that can truly be considered historical fiction is Rajsimha (1881, rewritten and enlarged 1893). Anandamath (The Abbey of Bliss, 1882) is a political novel which depicts a Sannyasi (Hindu ascetic) army fighting the soldiers of the Muslim Nawab of Murshidabad. The book calls for the rise of Hindu nationalism to uproot the foreign Turko-Afghan Muslim rule of Bengal and put forth as a temporary alternative the East India Company till Hindus were fit for Self Rule. The novel was also the source of the song Vande Mataram (I worship the Motherland as Mother) which, set to music by Rabindranath Tagore, was taken up by many Indian nationalists, and is now the National Song of India.

Anonymous said...

Kanchan-da - Great article. We in the south had seen the media's play in the aftermath of arrest of kanchi sankaracharya. For close to 6 months, every magazine and tv channel carried titbits and quoted 'inside sources' on their first pages and made their money. After 5,000 page submission by the government, nothing has hapenned in this case. You and other well-intended journos are trying to nip this trend in the bud. I just hope people are able to see through the media manipulation.

Indian Nationalist said...

Label us as terrorists.

Hell I am planning to be a suicide bomber myself....

It is time we Hindus became real terrorists and rid the land of the evil that is currently ruling us.

For how long will be sit and be cowards and be RULED?.

BE RULED.......

REMEMBER THESE 2 GOLDEN WORDS HINDUS.

BE RULED.....

First by the Muslims for 1000 years, then by the christians for 300 years and now by the Christians again for 6 years.

M. Patil said...

Now, the Congress bureau of investigation issued summons to Guj minister and the media as usual is going all rapturous.

Why can't concerend Hindus start a c-span like TV channel? This hould not cost a lot of money. Nitin Gadkari and Co must think about having media presence or else they will always be on the defensive. BJP will never be able set the agenda or shape discourse. Congress party which is the most communal party manged to become 'secular' with the help of establishment media.

indian said...

/** >>>"“This is an attack on freedom of expression. The media is being muzzled. Ideas must be combatted with ideas, not violence. It is despicable and deplorable,” said a news channel editor"
***/

Just perfect subversion by media.. what are the ideas that they are referring to? When did allegations became ideas? or when did accusations became ideas? when did branding , labelleing called as ideas?

The question is the damages caused by the so called ideas and the possible counter reaction to it..

Incidently, the media who is controlling a multi-crore information enterprise through which they unleash all kinds of "Such Ideas", cannot expect some one to respond in the same way, which they could NOT.. Everyone responds with the resources they have..
And violence is the last resort of those ordinary people, who have no other means to vent their anger..

Kanchan.. you have denounced the violence of the few of the RSS persons.. but I fully condone their reactions.. Infact, the damage they caused to the media house, is in no way equal to the damage that the media goons had inflicted on them..
I would call it as a retaliation rather than violence..

What will a person will do, if some one comes and abuses his mother? He will instantly slap the abuser.. we cannot tell him that he should respond by ideas, or he should in turn abuse the other persons mother, instead of taking to violence..

The intent and the impact of an act is to be considered before we judge anything..