The fourth pillar of any democracy is the independent media. The purpose of this pillar is to keep the remaining three in check, namely the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature. When Republic, the latest English news channel launched there was a fervent belief that finally the Executive would be held to account. Expectations were rightfully high.
After all Arnab Goswami was the darling of the English prime time news in our country, regardless of fact that his father had fought the 1998 elections on a BJP ticket from the Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency or that his uncle had served as the BJP’s Assam unit head and is currently a BJP MLA from the same state. But all expectations came to a crashing halt in a matter of few days. It appears now that the Executive has found in Republic a new cheerleader.
Republic’s stated focus was putting the country first. As patriotic as this may sound Republic has simply refused to question the government on any issue. The only country where the media absolutely refuses to question the government in the name of patriotism is North Korea. Several instances of Republic’s reporting point out to nothing more than harassment of individuals and more broadly propaganda.
Take for example the Sunanda Pushkar case, where the Delhi High Court has asked Republic to tone down the rhetoric and stick to facts. Indirectly implying that the channel was relying on fiction for reportage. Anybody who has viewed the tapes can only conclude that Shashi Tharoor’s aide leaked private information about the Tharoors to Republic and did so consistently. Why the aide did so is another debate altogether. There was nothing revelatory in the tapes that were played ad nauseam by the channel. More so, what was the real story? Was it that the Delhi Police, which reports to the Union Home Ministry, is inept? Is it that they were in cahoots? The vital answers that make for great investigative journalism were deliberately lost in the cacophony.
Another instance is the recent violence in Madhya Pradesh in which six people have lost their lives at the hands of the state police. The Republic crew managed to find their way into Mandsaur where no leaders or media were permitted. Yet, after finding their way there the only questions they raised were that of Rahul Gandhi’s impeding visit and if the people would be troubled by it. The coverage had nothing to do with the state’s failure to maintain law and order.
The reporter made no mention of the excess force used by the state machinery against its own citizens. Nor was there any question raised on why leaders from various political parties weren’t allowed to visit. The only questions asked to the victims were those related to the opposition. The Republic reporter seemed completely obliviously to the fact that the current government has been ruling Madhya Pradesh for close to fourteen years.
On air Arnab often disparagingly refers to other journalists as members of the Lutyens set or club, an apparent reference to journalists that were close to the erstwhile government. But in making this accusation he forgets that no journalist ever resided in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone.
Nor did any of them fail in their duty of questioning the government of the day. For if they had then we wouldn’t witness the outrage over the various scams that were uncovered during the UPA years. It seems like today the alleged Lutyens insiders have become outsiders and journalists who are far more unapologetic about their leanings have replaced them with Arnab leading the pack.
Of course it is the Indian citizens who find no credible voice to raise their concerns that pay the ultimate price. Propaganda has replaced news, cheerleading has replaced journalism; inquiry has found a label of anti-nationalism. All of this under the pretext Nationalism which actually happens to be an exercise in chest–thumping!