Why Barkha Dutt is attacking Arnab Goswami? The reasons go beyond TRPs

Controversial television journalist Barkha Dutt is on a mission these days. The Consulting Editor of NDTV, whose conversations with corporate and political lobbyist Niira Radia were leaked in 2010, is lobbying with fellow journalists to bring down Arnab Goswami, the always angry Editor-in-Chief of Times Now.

While one may think that it’s the TRPs – the metric to measure how popular a TV channel or a news show is – that is driving this jealousy as Arnab has garnered all TRPs, the reasons go much beyond that.

A sequence of events has led to the current hysterical state of Barkha Dutt, starting with the Indian Army killing Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani in Kashmir. The immediate reaction of Barkha to this big news was this:

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This tweet itself brought criticism to Barkha as people pointed out that not only she skipped the word “terrorist” to define Burhan (instead calling him ‘commander’, as if he held some legitimate post), but painted him as a guy whose father was someone indulged in noble job of teaching and whose primary interest and involvement was within social media.

Deliberately or inadvertently, Barkha appeared to have indulged in harmful distortion. It was soon discovered that Burhan’s father was no ordinary school headmaster, but someone who held jihadist views. While Burhan’s activities went beyond social media and he played active role in many killings and threatened to carry out terror attacks.

Following Burhan’s killing, there were violent protests in Kashmir by separatists against security forces, and there were casualties on both sides. Once again, many felt that Barkha Dutt was soft on separatists in her reporting from the ground zero.

Barkha was, however, almost unperturbed by these criticisms. Until Hafiz Saeed spoke. In a TV interview, the mastermind of Mumbai Terror Attacks thanked Barkha Dutt and Congress leaders for their “good work” in Kashmir.

A note of thanks and recognition from a terrorist is the last thing someone would want. Also, what comprises “good work” in the scheme of things of a terrorist is a further troublesome idea. Barkha knew that this was something she needed to get off from her back.

And she found an alibi in Arnab.

Arnab didn’t really ask for any gag on media – something Barkha is claiming in her current tirade against him, and thus making it a case of press freedom (and giving cue to others to cry Emergency?). Yes, Arnab did ask some in the media to be exposed, investigated, and tried for their links with those in Pakistan who plot downfall of India.

What’s wrong with that? He didn’t name anyone. And it’s absolutely fair to demand that those in cahoots with the enemies of the nation should be investigated and tried. And if they happen to be in media, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be tried.

Remember that the same Arnab had gone ballistic against a Hindi journalist named Ved Pratap Vaidik, who had met Hafiz Saeed two years ago. Vaidik had claimed that he was a journalist and thus his meeting with Hafiz should be seen in different context, but Arnab was not ready to buy that argument.

So Arnab’s stand on this issue is consistent. He is not willing to give any concessions to anyone claiming to be a journalist as far as hobnobbing with the enemies of the state is concerned. And this time he didn’t really name anyone, but Barkha thought it was about her.

Barkha made it all about her (but under guise of defending press freedom) because she desperately wanted to get the Hafiz Saeed’s endorsement forgotten by the public. And the best way to do was to start a bigger controversy – make big statements like being ashamed of being in the same industry as Arnab Goswami and virtually calling him a “chamcha” (sycophant).

This appears to be working. People are no longer talking about why Hafiz Saeed thinks Barkha Dutt or Congress leaders do “good work” in Kashmir, but now it’s all about “good journalism” that Arnab Goswami is not supposed to be doing.

Apart from taking the focus off Hafiz Saeed’s statement, the attack on Arnab by Barkha and her friends serve another purpose – to show the journalists and media persons about who the real daddy is.

Those broadly subscribing to the left-liberal ideology have had a mafia like control on media for long. Arnab is someone who is not a typical left-liberal. Arnab is no right-winger as well, but he is definitely no Adarsh Liberal. He himself underlines that fact by terming the others as “Lutyens Media”.

And thus someone like Arnab ruling the media scene hurts the other side. They need excuses to attack him and to cut him to size, so that others get the message – if we didn’t leave Arnab, who are you? It is a signal to those in junior and middle level positions in journalism – be with us, or you’d be taught a lesson just like we are teaching Arnab a lesson.

So there won’t be easy end to this battle, as this goes beyond TRPs and personal egos of two former colleagues. Perhaps next in line will be a leaked letter or “sources” based story that many journalists in Times Group have written to the top management complaining about Arnab’s attack on press freedom, and that top management is upset with Arnab, and so on.

The nation wants to know what Arnab has thought about it, and how will he deal with this organized attack on him. Right now it seems that he doesn’t give a toss about it.


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