From Media to 'Modia'

Rupa Gulab

America is great again, despite Donald Trump. Media resistance in the face of an authoritarian regime is a heartening thing to see. It has inspired some of India’s mainstream journalists to tweet about it in awestruck tones. Yes, the very same people who bow and scrape so low before the establishment that even footstools are taller than them. The tragedy is that a few of that lot were former liberals who, after they figured out which way the wind was blowing in 2014, caved in as depressingly as cakes do when eager beavers open oven doors too soon. The norm is to attack the opposition for all the failures of the government, the weather, and so on. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions (particularly with the rise of independent online media), and I do hope that that handful of courageous journalists will help see India through this dark period.

Aren’t you sick and tired of the media covering non-events like politicians shamelessly inviting themselves for lunch at Dalit homes? Especially obese politicians who deserve to be on severe diets (I hope tax-payers realise that they will have to give up a flyover or two for bariatric surgeries of politicians, particularly those from the ruling party). These 10-chinned wonders are doing the rounds of Dalit homes across the nation with television camera crews faithfully following in their footsteps like Mary’s little lamb, but there was no coverage of the huge Bhim Army event at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, in protest against atrocities in Uttar Pradesh. Nothing. Not even from that one English news channel that used to be liberal and is now schizophrenic (on a Saturday night programme, the smarmy anchor sided with a ruling party spokesperson and accepted his inflated post-demonetisation figures. On a later programme, another anchor deflated those figures with facts.) But back to Dalits: If I worked for any of those news channels, I would ask these netas if they paid for the lunch they invited themselves to, or bought a thank you present for their bemused hosts, at the very least. I would also ask, how come they don’t come rushing to the rescue when Dalits are banned from drawing water from wells or being terrorised in other ways?

Have you noticed that the composition of panels on news channel debates is changing? There is no equal representation anymore. Now, out of, say, six panellists, you have three people defending the ruling party (the pompous official party spokesperson, an unbearable human being from the party’s mother ship, and a slimy party supporter who pretends to be neutral). These are pitted against three random people with disparate views. Not a fair fight and, frankly, quite boring, which is why several news channels have desperately resorted to graphics of flames licking the screen. On rare occasions you do get to see a good fight, though: a few weeks ago, the news anchor of an English channel with deep ‘Cow is our Mother’ sympathies accused one of the panellists (a Kashmiri journalist) of being a terrorist because his surname happened to be Geelani. The poor chap looked shocked at first and then hit right back by calling her a gau rakshak (fair, if you ask me). The rest of that debate deteriorated into the news anchor and journalist accusing each other of being lousy journalists.

As far as print goes, the hope for free and fair reportage is fading. Blame media owners and bigoted editors (some of whom have been placed by the government itself) who lovingly edit out criticism of the government like devoted parents filling in a ‘Baby’s Growing Years’ scrapbook. If this situation continues, I think I want to migrate to the US. And I may succeed because the way the vibrant US media is going, Trump could well be impeached.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2017