By Anshul Kumar Pandey:Â
People everywhere are hollering at the top of their voice “This is unfair!” and are pointing fingers at Naveen Jindal and his tribe of “corrupt” and “self-seeking” politicians for getting two senior journalists of Zee News arrested under a non-bailable offense of extortion. However, I beg to distance myself from these cries of foulness and this high pitched melodrama in the name of protection of free speech in the country. It is not free speech that the two senior journalists of Zee were trying to defend; neither was it any investigative reportage that they were trying to cover no matter how many claims they make to the contrary. If anything, these arrests are a resounding slap in the face of neoliberal destruction of the media ethics and practices which have long been talked about in hushed tones in the corridors of North and South block, in the luncheons and dinners thrown by the ruling party and in between the laughter and arrogance of Lutyens Journalism.
It is strange to see Zee News alleging that Mr. Jindal is trying to “distort” the facts by airing only 5 minutes of what is supposed to be a six hour long clip. Let me at the outset declare that I am no sympathizer of Mr. Jindal and I believe that a full fledged inquiry should take place against him and others involved in the Coal block scam. However, let me also declare that I am no sympathizer of Zee’s stand either because they, and in essence, the entire media establishment, has got a taste of poetic justice. The Breaking News phenomenon, which started in order to catch more eyeballs and boost TRPs, and was soon adopted in the most lowly and horrendous manner by all the “respected” media establishments, had, at its core, the perversion, over simplification and gross distortion of truth and facts. As a person who is appalled by the daily deterioration of Journalism in this country, these arrests, and I say this at the risk of sounding hedonistic, have brought immense satisfaction.
Has it not become a norm in the mainstream Journalistic quarters of this country to turn a blind eye to the corrupt and illegal practices of most of the politicians which have big business interests? Is it not true that it is these businessmen politicians who hold large amount of shares in different media establishments and regularly shower them with the blessing of advertisements to fatten their pockets and shut their mouth? If so, then how are we to believe Zee’s claims that it was being “pressurized” by Mr. Jindal and other politicians to not air the story? Why shouldn’t we believe that Zee News did the story and tried to quote a high price to the representatives of Mr. Jindal in order to earn more money? If one is to believe, even for a second, that Zee News was pressurized, one can definitely ask why didn’t Zee News take up the matter to the outspoken Press Council of India chairman Mr. Markandey Katju and file a case against Mr. Jindal in the courts? I am not ready to believe that Mr. Jindal, a puny lackey of the Nehru-Gandhi family and a small fish in UPA-II would try to block a story against himself at a time when the more than ever before, the entire Political establishment is viewed as corrupt and good for nothing.
There are those who have been accusing the government of trying to gag the media. I congratulate them on waking up from their self induced slumber. I would like to use this opportunity to tell these newly awakened people that this government has, right from its inception, left no stone unturned to gag the media. The IT Act of 2008 is an example whose Sec 66A has become notorious for its draconian provisions and careless and subjective choice of words which gives the government far reaching powers to effectively gag the media. The blocking of twitter handles and the purging of entire sites in the name of maintaining communal harmony during the North East exodus was another such example. However, much as these issues have been debated threadbare on the social media, they have hardly found time in the mainstream media of this country which has always been cosy in rubbing the arm, patting the back and sympathizing with the establishment and thus lending legitimacy to its actions. These arrests, coming as they do at a time when the Politician-Corporate-Journalist nexus is at its zenith, have served as a welcome reminder to those who thought that they would have some sort of constitutional immunity if they were not to air or write “negative” stories against select politicians.
There are those who say that they are being treated as popinjays while in reality it is the senior establishment that does not allow them to cover and air stories that they would like to do. I would like to invite such apologists for cowardly behaviour to take a course titled “How to speak your mind“. In essence, what these people want to tell us is that it is the corporate and politicians which are running the media establishments and which is, to a very great extent, true. However, I would like to add, that this stranglehold of politicians and corporate over the media establishments couldn’t have taken place without the meek and willing acquiescence of these Journalists themselves. The Radia tapes and their subsequent blackout in the mainstream media provide enough substance to support this.
There has developed a tendency in these big media houses to protect their own tribe instead of criticizing and questioning the abhorrent practices which have gained a sense of normalcy. We see the same pattern repeating in the arrest of these two journalists where everyone is bashing the government instead of questioning Zee news itself on its conduct. The mainstream media of this country has long stopped representing the views and diversity of opinion and issues in this country. They do not represent the aam aadmi, neither do they represent the aam aurat; instead, they represent the interest and the whims and fancies of the khas aadmi of the country.
I refuse to join this bandwagon of tear jerking for the fate of freedom of speech in this country with those who are squarely responsible for the sorry state that it finds itself today in. And it is for this reason, that I am happy at the arrest of these two journalists from Zee News.[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:Â Anshul Kumar Pandey is studying Political Science in University of Delhi. He blogs atÂ http://anshulkumarpandey.