Yes Ravish Kumar, Indian media is indeed a dark place

Dear Ravish Kumar

Just about a year ago, I wrote about how you claimed that you were not a “super-journalist” and then proceeded to lie and surreptitiously cover up your tracks when caught. Yesterday I saw your “ground-breaking” show, where you put up a dark screen with some text and asked some thought provoking questions on Indian media and how narratives are being set. It made me angry. Very angry.

Angry at the sanctimonious holier-than-thou attitude. Angry at how you felt this sort of sermonizing was necessary only when the narrative was dangerously spinning out of control and against the individuals shouting “Bharat ki barbaadi”, “Bharat tere tukde honge, Inshallah”, “Bandook ke dum pe aazadi” in JNU. It is a good thing that you left Twitter long time back, probably because you couldn’t bear to hear the common man speak so openly and vent his thoughts on your “kaun jaat” brand of anchoring.

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You say the job of the media is not to provoke, incite, brand people. True. I agree with you. I too have slammed the media personalities who claimed that “Christians were under attack” in India, when the truth was something else. I too attacked the media persons who lied that BJP has now begun a Beef ban raj when most of these bans were existing from Congress times. I attacked the journalists who exaggerated Akhlaq’s gruesome murder beyond proportion and eventually branded me and my entire country as intolerant. I too attacked those journalists who went with a mike to every Tom Dick and Harry and asked them “Is India Intolerant?”. I attacked the journalists who did not tell Indians the political antecedents of the Award Wapsi gang and their blatant hypocrisy. I hope Ravish, you too  hosted a similar “black screen” episode all of these times.

You say you have a problem with media debates turning the focus on nationalism. You have issues with media persons declaring others “gaddar” or “anti-national”. Where were you, oh enlightened one, when based on the actions of a few, the entire country was being branded intolerant. Oh yes, you were part of the intolerance brigade yourself. How sweet. Even sweeter is how suddenly post Bihar elections this word has disappeared from TV studios. Magic no?

You say every other day there are anti-India, pro-Pakistan slogans in Kashmir. ISIS and Pakistani flags are unfurled. How can we catch all of them? Police will end up arresting people everyday. I don’t know if the above is true, but if it is, let us turn a blind eye to all crimes across India then. So many people abuse Gods of other religions daily. Why do we arrest them. Let Kamlesh Tiwari be released, who is languishing in jail after being slapped with National Security Act. This is a good principle: If too many people might have been breaking the law, look the other side. Something like Bihar’s jungle raj I presume.

You then say you have grave issues with some channels airing maliciously edited videos of Kanhaiya. I share your sentiments. There is this channel which once aired a brutal hit-job on Baba Ramdev. The journalist concerned used chhota mota editing techniques to fudge replies of the interviewee. This was exposed here. Not only did the channel run the show, no one till date has acknowledged nor apologised, and further, the concerned journalist even won an award , “The Journalist of the year” during the last year. The channel: NDTV, the journalist: Sreenivasan Jain. Now that I know you have extreme intolerance towards doctored videos I am confident that you will expose this journalist in your next “black-screen” sanctimonious episode.

You then go on asking how Kanhaiya and his crew were branded “terrorist”, “anti-national”, “gaddar” even when nothing has been proved, when a video has turned out to be fake. You say “gusse se sochne ki shakti bandh ho jaati hai” I agree. Media has done this quite often. They have often said a politician is corrupt even before this was proved. Many channels have played press-conferences of so-called anti-corruption messiahs who have done nothing but fired empty blanks at a variety of people. None of the channels verified the facts before playing such accusatory videos. Neither have any of the accusations materialised into a legally tenable case. I come back to the “Christians under attack” narrative. Just as you said yesterday, so many facts of those cases were yet to be ascertained, so many issues open. Yet, you and your colleagues went on a tirade. I also know of a man who was viciously vilified for almost a decade by Indian media, even when nothing was proved in courts. The man is even now being vilified, by ignoring testimonies of former NSAs, IB officers and terrorists-turned-approvers. I hope you have a “black-screen” mega episode for all such people.

You then go on to play some audios: First the audios of people protesting against the JNU slogans, then of the people supporting JNU. Of course your secular nature stops you from playing the audio of the slogans which started it all. You choose not to play those chants, because you know then things go awry. The excuse being bandied about by your colleagues at NDTV is that it violates the broadcasting code. Maybe NDTV India has learnt from its own past mistakes, because just las month, your channel was sent a show-cause notice for violating norms during the Pathankot air-base attack.  Some day, let us have a “black-screen” episode for yourself.

You then start with how the lawyers misbehaved with journalists and how they later applauded themselves for doing this. So true. It is shocking to see how lawyers drummed up support for such hooliganism. Just as it is shocking to see how ISIS flag toting Individuals in Kashmir came in support of JNU slogans, or how Pakistan social media trended #PakistanWithJNU. I hope you will also have a “black-screen” show for how in India, terrorists who slay Indians are supported, and the people who support such terrorists, are further supported.

Then you move on to show how a section of social media abuses and accuses eminent journalists like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai on twitter. It is true. A lot of people use uncouth language online. I also saw one such individual use unparliamentary language for the Prime Minister of India:

Why him, even I have been abused and threatened with dire consequences multiple times. Speaking of dire consequences, Barkha Dutt has slapped cases on bloggers and Rajdeep Sardesai has literally slapped people on the streets. Hope you have a “black-screen” show for this also.

You end with despair. You are distraught that “TV is not doing what TV should do” and that “boundaries are being crossed”. I understand your dejection. You are losing control. You can no longer claim to be the sole opinion maker. Till recently, at least your entire cabal was united and with you. It was only the noisy social media which was challenging you. It was a David vs Goliath situation, victory was easy. It is not easy any-more. “Boundaries” set by you and your ilk are now being crossed. Ranks have been split, some of your friends have dared to take a different path. This is why you chose to humiliate them by playing their audio clips earlier in your show. To be fair you aren’t the first from you gang to do this. Many other have used various means to make this point: Fall in line, or fall out of our pack.

You said all of the above, but you didn’t say some very obvious things which a smart journalist like you should have said. Why is everyone in the media scared of allowing the law to take its own course in the matter of Kanhaiya? Why this incessant hurry to declare him innocent via media trial? Secondly, why is no-one asking where is Umar Khalid. Why is you colleague Barkha Dutt distressed that the police are enquiring with Umar’s friends about his whereabouts? Does the police not have the power to search for Umar also? If indeed he is innocent, he should surrender and cooperate with the police and help them nab the accused. Again, the courts will decide whether these guys are guilty or not.

In your carefully chosen critique of Indian media you missed some another fundamental flaw. Let me educate you Ravish. The media has lost its sense of integrity. A common man can no longer trust the media. I don’t say this based purely on “mahaul”, although the mahaul too exists. I say this on hard data: Over 200 media lies in the year 2015 are recorded here. From the banal, to the vicious. Mind you these are largely from English portals and we haven’t even skimmed through regional media. What action has been taken even on a single of these lies? How many time have editors or channels apologised? Pray Ravish, as highlighted at the beginning of this piece, have you apologised for your lie?

I read many people say “Oh we need more Ravish Kumars”. I agree. Not only do we need more Ravish Kumars, we need this Ravish Kumar more often. Every-time Indian media goes overboard on any topic, Ravish Kumar’s “black-screen” should pop-up, not only when things aren’t going his way. Every-time a man is judged before his time, judged on half-truths, Ravish Kumar should come with his “black-screen”, without bothering to see what is the ideology, political affiliation, caste of this man. The day we see this Ravish Kumar more often, the darkness surrounding Indian media will disappear.

I know you won’t care to reply or respond, or maybe even introspect, which you pretended to do in the show. On your behalf, an entire army is out there to pounce on any criticism. The trolls, whose tweets you never read, would abuse me, while your fellow travellers would say this is just “whataboutery”. Sure. Go ahead. Use that term. Label your critics. Reject criticism. And then when someone does the same to you, show the “black-screen”.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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