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THE CITIZEN COMMENT | 3 AUGUST, 2018

3 Heads Roll, 3 Messages From Corporate Media Action Against Scribes

3 Heads Roll, 3 Messages From Corporate Media Action Against Scribes


Three heads have rolled for one program. First ABP News editorial head and managing editor Milind Khandekar who left on Wednesday night with a tweet, “14 years & 8 days later it’s time to move on. Today was my last day as Managing Editor @abpnewstv . Thank you for being part of my journey so far.” And then another editor of the group Punya Prasun Bajpai, also anchor of the channels flagship program Masterstroke. And shortly after anchor Abhisar Sharma who is reported to have been asked to stay home for two weeks.

And why? No reasons given. Today corporate mainstream media does not ‘sack’ employees. It creates a situation where they resign. And hence the owners can hide behind the fig leaf of resignations, pretending that the journalists have resigned of their own volition. The government too gets its way, and the scribes valiantly standing at the last post of brave and honest journalism find themselves on the streets.

The media of course has found the reasons, and in fact there was major applause for the last show of Masterstroke where Bajpai’s reporter went in search of the woman farmer who had been interviewed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over video conference (how else!) with the question, whether her income had increased. And she had replied, it has doubled, a statement that the government of Chhatisgarh and the centre propagated all over to prove that their policies were pro-farmer, and that there was no agrarian distress. All was fine until these nosy journalists entered the picture, tracked down the farmer, and aired the program that busted the myth. And in fact recorded the fact that the Chandramani, the farmer, had been asked to say this; that the statement did not reflect the truth; and the camera captured the dismal situation even as the reporter verified the visible distress in his talk with different villagers.



Immediately after came the sacking, oh sorry “resignations” of two senior, well reputed journalists with Bajpai being the most prominent. A well respected journalist, who has been able through sheer professionalism to find a space and a slot even in the compromised corporate media channels. He had left Aajtak TV News for what is reported to have been a face off with Ramdev, the yoga industrialist.

It is difficult for media to do more than speculate at this stage on the basis of ‘sources said’ reports. In a world where coincidences are suspicious, the resignations following the airing of Masterstroke are clearly under pressure, sudden and without reason. However, it is imperative for the impacted scribes to speak out to take this forward, and expose the government-capitalist nexus that controls the media. In this case ABP news. As clearly the pressure was huge that the channel proprietors were willing to risk their all and sacked those who were bringing them the eyeballs and had made this news channel at least noticeable in the otherwise cacophony of noise.

The 3 messages that have been reinforced are thus:

1. While there is some freedom for print, and more for those on the wild internet, television news channels need to conform. And journalists crossing the well laid out guidelines whereby there can be no criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government can be prepared to join the list of unemployed.

2. Corporate owners are even more compliant than before today. And when the government pulls in the reins even those claiming to be independent, or at least more so than others, like ABP News are pulled in to toe the line.

3. Freedom of the press is a myth. TV News is a pliant entity and no journalist, despite his standing amongst the people, big enough to fight the corporate-government nexus that is all powerful, and all controlling.

The Opposition has raised a voice, feeble and ineffective as the deed has been done. And indeed reporters and editors lost their jobs even when those sitting on the other side were in power. Now, of course, the threat and fear are palpable as the government has made it clear through past incidents that it will not hesitate to crack the whip that cripples business, and isolates dissenting businessmen, in particular those with media channels.

Independent and honest journalism has been pushed out from television media, and the few journalists who try to ride the bull every now and again are made to see the other end of the stick sooner than later.
 

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