A big let down? A 'sickular' journo and a popular media house frustrate admirers

    03-Sep-2020   
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The 'India Today' TV interview with Rhea Chakraborty could be attributed to TRP and some other factors. But it has certainly hit credibility ! People are emotional and a large number of netizens were thus angry.

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New Delhi: "The 1980s was dominated by the Gandhi family. We never had an easy relationship with them. Sanjay Gandhi hated us for our exposes on Emergency. I had one icy meeting before the 1980 election to say we wanted to cover his side of the story but could not do so...." - wrote Aroon Purie for the Edit for a special issue of the magazine 'India Today' in 2000. But in circa 2020, could we say what Sanjay Gandhi could not, Rhea Chakraborty could?
 
Journalism is a powerful tool of 'indoctrination'. It could be wielded as a weapon against someone. The person could be dead. Forget ethics, the basic humane element required one should not talk like that for a dead person who cannot ever defend himself.But some interviews can convince the target audience to believe what you intend to say!
 
So if television 'A' is going with Narendra Modi, the 'B' has to go against him. If 'A' has sided with Late Sushant and slammed Rhea, the channel 'B' has to provide a platform to her. The 'prime suspect' - who is named as No. 1 in the FIR filed with Patna police, was even given an invitation to slander the deceased actor for allegedly abusing drugs.
 
Well, the Ethics and Media credibility are being intensely debated these days. Of course, a great trigger to the entire noise and especially in the social media has been the decision of 'India Today' to provide a platform to Rhea Chakraborty - a 'prime suspect' in the Sushant Singh Rajput mysterious death. Bollywood's dirty drug racket seems to have made it worse. People need to have access to independent information and the media ought not to get 'polarised' in this manner.
 
To people of my generation, 'India Today' symbolises the print medium when the magazine used to be one of the most trustworthy publications.
 
There are primarily two-three reasons for me becoming a journalist. One reason is my failure with flirtation with Science and of course another reason is intense reading of the 'India Today' magazine in the 1980s and early 1990s. The 'India Today' TV interview with Rhea Chakraborty could be attributed to TRP and some other factors. But it has certainly hit credibility ! People are emotional and a large number of netizens were thus angry.
 
For the special 25 Years publication issue, Aroon Purie in the edit also said - "...in the age of convergence, content is the king. So keep the faith"
 
That 'faith' was also hit; and the contents could not prove better. Purie had also written - "Sometimes success is born out of failure. 'India Today' was meant only for Indians living abroad when it started. The idea didn't work and only then were copies put out in the Indian market". In 2020, ironically did the television channel err in agreeing for that interview? Whether Failure - this error of judgement - will be born out of TRP games and a game discovered post-2002 ?
 
In 2019, as a guest writer for Dimapur-based daily newspaper 'Nagaland Page', I wrote: "....... 'Jugadu’ journalism is the key stepping stone today – more so in large cities Delhi, Mumbai and various state capitals. In Lucknow and Chandigarh, journalists generally whisper how ‘people’ managed houses from the state governments. Journalists – thus - no longer talk about ‘stories’ or working in challenging situations as opportunities! They talk about junkets, getting into official patronage and in the long run even closer to the throne – where it suits".
 
The big issue is not actor Sushant's surname, religion or his native state and more so because Bihar is going to the polls. The real factor that made people angry over his death and the visible indifference of Mumbai cops was his age. The country lost a hard working talent at the age of 34 and a political class and Mumbai police easily called it a 'suicide' even without police reports. All sorts of arguments were being made for not even filing the FIR in Mumbai. People are simply angry about such conduct by the Mumbai police - often romantically called the Scotland Yard of East.
 
Those who want to defend Mumbai Police, say it was only a preliminary query! Meaning the probe could be 'preliminary' even after 64 days; and even FIR was not filed. Eminent counsel Harish Salve says: “We have made a complete mockery of the criminal investigation system and we have only one agency to thank for this, the Mumbai Police". Stating that he had no idea why an FIR was not registered, Salve said it is very odd not to have the time of death in the medical report.
 
Now coming to the issue of media trial. Here too, Salve says "thanks to media trial" that the case has been revisited. But it is also true that the media in India stands 'polarised'. One school of thought does approve of 'media trial' to corner Narendra Modi both for the 2002 mayhem and the Rafale row, but says blistering attack on Rhea Chakraborty in a section of electronic and web media is simply 'unfair'.
 
A section of people have tried to give a spin that things deteriorated in the media during the tenure of Narendra Modi. This may be a good Chicken and Egg story. More precise finding is that the ‘weakness’ in journalism cultivated for years has ultimately suited Mr Modi and his political machinations. At least he got a big sympathy because of negative publicity. It will not be erroneous to suggest that the media has contributed in making a larger than life image of the 'brand Moditva'.
 
Thanks to the television journalism and later backed by social media – the ‘screening process’ ended. Thus the Congress and its 'energetic leader' Rahul Gandhi's slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor hae’ was widely reported implying that country’s elected Prime Minister is a ‘thief’. The hatred towards Modi seemed to justify such a cheap and below-the-belt campaign.
 
There was no fear of defamation and no ‘editing’ and screening. Ultimately, as the BJP crossed the 300 mark in 2019 polls and the 'paragon of virtues' Rahul Gandhi's strength in Lok Sabha was reduced to around 50 MPs, it is certain today that the people of India did not approve of such negativism. Even prior to that, do not forget Rahul tendered apology in the Supreme Court on the issue of his campaign on Rafale.
 
The ‘Lobbying’ journalism in 2009 and around had given birth to the 'Nira Radia tape' episode where virtuous journalists were taking messages and meeting politicians trying to work which minister(s) should get which portfolio. Notably, in 2008-09, the same 'big name' patrakar was alleged to have played certain games in 'Cash for Vote' scam. The result is, L K Advani perhaps had to pay a prince. The Congress easily got five more years, from 2009 to 2014. But ultimately, oh boy, you have landed into the lap of Namo - the much disliked protagonist Narendra Modi!
 
Importantly, the Prime Minister is quite strong; so much so that despite economic and Covid crisis, Modi is rated as an outstanding and good Prime Minister by 78 percent of people surveyed. On the other hand, some corrective measures have started in the Congress. Though belatedly, the media should not miss the big picture of the revolt by the likes of Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad.
 
Importantly, those who hate 'Modi regime' should help Congress to put its house in order and also address the issues of 'appointed presidents' and 'elected presidents'. Kapil Sibal is no RSS man from Nagpur. But he is right when he says - "We (Congress) need to be the lynchpin around which the wheel of the opposition revolves". 'Rediscovering of Congress' thus is a much needed goal for the opposition camp.