It’s not CBI raids on NDTV but the arrogance of media that threatens democracy

It happens every other day in India. Raids by some branch of law enforcement – police, CBI, ED, IT sleuths, et al. – on some individual or some business. Jewellers get raided, factories and their owners get raided. Politicians and industrialists get raided. Film stars and cricket players get raided.

So why does it matter if a raid happens on NDTV? Why is the reaction different? Here are just three samples – one that virtually threatens the law enforcement agencies with trail by media, another that declares it akin to Emergency (attack on democracy), and third one that suddenly finds such raids ‘barbaric’:

Why such extreme rhetoric? No, Mr. Praveen Swami, CBI raids are not ‘defining moment’. The last time this sort of thing happened was probably last week. Check local news reports from all across our vast nation. I am sure you will find that some business owner or executive was raided by police during the last week.

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In fact, such raids have probably happened somewhere or the other in the country on every single working day for last several decades. And Indian democracy is doing just fine. It would have been in danger if media would have done what Tavleen Singh suggests – oppose every CBI raid (Lalu would love that suggestion by the way).

So what makes the current CBI raid special that warrants such extreme, almost hallucinatory, reactions? The fact that these are raids against a business that sells a very specific product : news.

If a jeweller or shopkeeper is raided by law enforcement, it’s not an assault on democracy. If you raid a ‘news trader’, only then is it an assault on democracy. Huh. Why?

The media would probably chafe at the term “news trader”, as if it is some kind of insult. What’s wrong with being a trader? Business creates wealth. If only Nehru and his descendants had understood this simple fact, they would not have led us into a four decade long disaster of aligning with the wrong side of history.

But no, the media looks down on the word “trader”. In an attitude that can only be described as Brahminical, the media claims to live in some higher intellectual heaven. What they sell is more than just a product, it is some kind of divine prasad that we should be eternally grateful for.

I checked. According to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, there are over 15 lakh registered companies in India. NDTV is just one of them. Nothing more, nothing less.

If media in general and/or NDTV in particular has a heightened sense of self, or some sense of entitlement, that is their problem. You know, like this:

NDTV statement on CBI raids

No, NDTV you are not an “institution of India”. You are just one of the 15 lakh+ companies in the country. Get over yourself.

If you insist on being put on some higher pedestal than other ‘traders’, let us, for argument’s sake, promote you and put you along with some ‘professionals’ and ‘service providers’. In fact, let us give you – media and journalists – another promotion, and not club you along with CAs (professionals) or mobile companies (service providers).

Let us give you a higher status, like a Teacher (considered even more important than god in the Hindu tradition you love to hate) or a Doctor (considered another form of god in the same tradition). The role and importance of a journalist is definitely not more important than these two in the modern world; I hope you have the modesty to accept that. But if you introspect, you know that you don’t deserve this high status.

You need to study hard to become a doctor, and your license is revoked if you indulge in malpractices. But in your industry, you just need ‘connections’ to become a journalist, and your career is not impacted when you are found indulged in fixing ministries or doing PR work or even manufacturing facts.

Being a teacher is also so dissimilar to being a journalist. You have to pass some exams, including Maths. There are some standards you should meet. So unlike journalism, you see. By the way, raids have been carried out against teachers and they have been arrested if they are found to indulge in malpractices. Here is an NDTV report on the same. I did not hear any teacher crying attack on education or insult to Maa Saraswati.

If you are honest, you know that you don’t deserve to be equated with doctors or teachers, for there is no similarity between your industry and theirs. You deserve to be equated with ‘traders’ only. Just like anyone can open a shop and become a trader, anyone can launch a newspaper, a TV channel, or a website and become a journalist. You are nothing but ‘news traders’ in true sense.

You are a trader who looks down upon other trades and traders. A trader who demands special status. A trader who seeks power without accountability. A trader with a sense of entitlement.

The same sense of entitlement operates when conventional media bashes the social media. The most common technique is to dismiss social media as “trolls” and the most common smear is to call them “misogynist”. You have been carrying out “raids” against anyone speaking against you. Thus there is no wonder that there is a sense of glee among masses when you are being raided.

Instead of creating fake outrage, introspect why you have come to this level. It is your arrogance. CBI raids should be least of your concern.

We do need institutions that can act as watchdogs in a democracy, but that institution can not be built with the arrogance that you proudly possess. That institution has to have the relationship of mutual respect, trust, and accountability with the public. You hate all three when it comes down to those. Public has to blindly follow your diktats and be in awe of your grand status. Sorry mate, it can not work this way.

If the conventional media thinks that a handful of their media workers could do a better job than the collective intelligence of the masses, it is really their problem. Technology has always gotten rid of low skilled jobs and it may just be the turn of the old media.

In short, media is a business. Privately owned. Privately operated. Be prepared to operate within the same system as every other business. I can’t believe you expected anything else.

You being treated the same as other businesses is not the problem, your entitlement without accountability is.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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