On Monday (April 11), West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatened the media for allegedly defaming her government through ‘consistent’ coverage of negative stories. She made the contentious remarks during the inauguration of the revamped Milan Mela in Kolkata.
“Somewhere, a firecracker (chocolate bomb) has exploded and the media is holding the Trinamool Congress responsible for it. The story is being telecast all the time. And no other media house is doing this job better than Anandabazar Patrika,” Mamata Banerjee accused the newspaper of exaggeration.
“Wow. It gets advertisements (from the State government) and only highlights the negative things…Remember, you must set limits for yourself. Those who give advertisement to them must ponder whether it should be continued at all,” she cautioned.
আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকার নাম নিলেন মুখ্যমন্ত্রী এবং বললেন এবিপি আনন্দর ‘যুক্তি-তক্কো’অনুষ্ঠানের কথা।এই চ্যানেলের যেটা ক্যাচলাইন—‘সীমানা ছাড়িয়ে’—সেই সীমানার কথা মনে করিয়ে দিয়ে আইনি ব্যবস্থার হুমকিও দিলেন।বিজ্ঞাপনদাতাদের বললেন,নিউজচ্যানেলে বিজ্ঞাপন দেবেন না। খবর নয়,সিরিয়াল দেখুন! pic.twitter.com/B0Hhbxin8s— Sange Suman (@IamSumanDe) April 11, 2022
The West Bengal Chief Minister warned, “How many times have you discussed the ‘fuel price hike’ on your channel? How many panel discussions, and debates did you hold on this topic? If Bengal media defames Bengal (government), then, what will BJP do?”
Mamata Banerjee asked people to watch TV serials instead of news channels. “Watch Star Jalsa, Zee TV serials. People are, anyway, in a state of mental pollution. Do not spend too much watching, listening to the news (given that they cover only negative things about the government),” she continued.
“Humanity is dead in the Russian-Ukraine war. There is only bloodshed and destruction. Sri Lanka is on the verge of an economic collapse. Tell me honestly, how many times did you cover these news stories?” Banerjee inquired.
In a longer version of her speech, Mamata Banerjee could be heard blaming the ‘irresponsible’ media for supposedly distorting the image and perception of the State of West Bengal. “I will not allow this to happen and even sacrifice my life for it,” she announced.
The West Bengal Chief Minister warned, “Agun lagale kintu aagun sobar ghore lage. Ami agun chai na shanti chai (When you light a fire, it will burn down every house including yours. I don’t want fire but peace)” She claimed that source-based reporting by journalists is illegal.
Banerjee said, “In Bengal, we tolerate things but it doesn’t mean that you will cross all limits…Bengal is soft, TMC is soft, isn’t it?” She then threatened companies against providing ads to non-friendly media companies. “With your ad money, they increase their TRP and show negative things such as murders all the time.”
The West Bengal Chief Minister was ‘upset’ over the media coverage of the alleged rape and death of a 14-year-old girl by the son of a TMC leader in the Nadia district. She also hit out at Youtubers for allegedly posting unverified news content on the platform.
Do positive stories, get advertisements: Mamata Banerjee
In November last year, Mamata Banerjee had courted controversy after she directed a journalist to fall in line in exchange for government advertisements. A local journalist, by the name of Shukla Ganguly, had lamented about the lack of advertisement revenue in her cash-strapped news organisation.
“We are running our paper for the past 11 years. Several small news organisations, including ours, are in a perilous state. We do not get advertisements from the government. I am requesting you over and again to please look into the matter,” the journalist pleaded.
After listening to the grievances of Shukla Ganguly, Mamata Banerjee stated, “The rural newspapers (gramin patrika), which will highlight the government’s work in a positive light, will get advertisement revenue. I will specifically direct the District Magistrate (DM) about this. This is because the government does not use State machinery each time for publicity.”
She claimed, “Today, we launched several initiatives for the development of the State. Big TV channels will show the news only once. However, rural newspapers will write (in detail) about it and will ensure that the information will reach every village in the State. As such, we have to take care of such rural newspapers who do this work with positivity.”
The West Bengal Chief Minister emphasised the need for sending a copy of rural newspapers to the cops and DM office. “Do you know why? This will help them review whether the news coverage (about the government) is positive or negative. Whoever is doing more positive content, give them advertisements. This is because I want them to work well and highlight all the positives.”
Mamata Banerjee then appealed to rural journalists to spin negative stories into positive news. “A negative news can always be turned into a positive one. In Bengal, we notice only negativity. There is no focus on positive news. Do positive stories. You will surely get advertisements from us…I am saying this for a long time. Hold a meeting with local newspapers and decide accordingly.”