THE media is careful not to hurt anybody in power and seems very selective in the choice of news. Early this year The Hindu (January 21, 2013) carried an article on the so-called Zee ‘extortion’ case in which the news network was alleged to have demanded Rs 100 crore in return for rolling back its campaign against steel tycoon Navin Jindal’s ‘misdemeanours’ in coal block allocations. Sandeep Bhushan, the writer of the article asked: “Were Sudhir Choudhary and Samir Ahluwalia, the two editors caught on camera allegedly ‘extorting’ money, doing so at the owners’ behest?” After raising some more points Mr Bhushan said: “Of course, the matter is before the Courts and it would be unfair to rush to any judgement.” This was said about ten weeks ago.
What is the situation today? Which court is hearing the case? Has any judgement been delivered or is it that court proceedings are still on? If a judgement has been delivered, what did it say? The media is silent on this score. Can it be that this is deliberate? The media silence says a lot.
Now take another story. Again it is The Hindu (March 18) which came out with another story that came as a shock. The story, written by Shalini Singh and understandably front-paged, said: “New evidence shows that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, far from being at ‘arms length’ from ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja’s controversial 2G decisions, had directed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) ‘to examine urgently’ Mr. Raja’s letters outlining his intended decisions which eventually led to the 2G scam on January 10 , 2008. As the report said: “Investigations now reveals that senior PMO officials had supported several of Mr. Raja’s acts on file, well before the 2G scam.…” It is a long story implicating you can guess who. Nobody has followed up this story. Why? Because it would be embarrassing to follow it up? At the same time, we have a report that totally misunderstands history and comes to wrong and unacceptable conclusions.
The Times of India (December 25, 2012) carried a column by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar which said that in his investigation into communal riots he was “astounded to find that the greatest communal slaughter occurred under neither Modi nor Rajiv but Nehru! To quote Aiyar: “His takeover of Hyderabad in 1948 caused maybe 50,000 to 200,000 deaths. The Sunderlal Report on the massacre has been kept an official secret for over 60 years.” Aiyar quotes a friend of India, William Dalrymple, as having written in his book, The Age of Hate that “the Sunderlal Report has been leaked and published abroad and estimates that as many as 200,000 Hyderabadi Muslims were slaughtered.”
Adds Aiyar: “Something is terribly wrong when Indian citizens are kept in the dark about the biggest pogrom since Independence, even after foreign sources have lifted the lid…” Aiyar refers to them as Hyderabadi Muslims. He should have known that they were Razakars out to kill Hindus and on the rampage, wreaking havoc in the Hyderabadi countryside. They were primarily killers and merciless ones at that. They were not innocent Muslims but large-scale killers. The Indian Army had no other option but to deal with them as the situation demanded. There was no ‘massacre’. One must use words carefully. I can say this with some sense of authority because by 1948 I had already been serving The Free Press Journal as a reporter and quite well knew what was going on. The Razakars got exactly what they deserved, nothing more, nothing less. Mr Aiyar should do well to read the history of these times. Between fiction and reality there is a vast difference.
There are things happening in the North-East that get poor reportage in the mainstream media. I am a contributor to the Guwahati daily The Sentinel and get a chance to read it on a daily basis, so to speak. According to the paper jihadi terrorists from Bangladesh are stealthily crossing the border to infiltrate into Assam and the possibilities of penetrators of outfits like the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HuJI) and the Bangladeshi arm of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the ISI in Assam cannot be ruled out. Hindus are being driven out of Bangladesh and there is very little coverage of that.
To read The Sentinel is to get an entirely different picture of the situation prevailing in Assam which the mainstream media does not seem willing to cover. We are kept in ignorance. The same newspaper reported I&M minister Manish Tewari as saying that there should be more news wire agencies in the country. One can’t question that, but what is more to the point is that even with existing agencies providing good national coverage, the treatment given to it is shallow in the extreme.
The India Abroad News Service (IANS), for instance, had reported from Washington that about 200 Indian-Americans had marched in protest against the controversial withdrawals of an invitation to Narendra Modi to speak at the Wharton India Economic Forum. It was a good story but how many newspapers gave it prominence? In the eyes of our secular intellectuals, any story that is pro-Modi is not news. Inaugurating the 125th anniversary celebrations of Malayalam Manorama in Kottayam on March 16, President Pranab Mukherjee noted that the media is accountable to its readers and viewers at large and, through them, to the entire nation. The Hindu (March 17) reported the President as saying that the media “should always keep in mind” what Gitanjali, written by Gurudev Tagore, said namely that the words written and spoken must come from “the depth of truth” – “Sensationalism should never be a substitute for objective reporting”, as he put it. Wasted words. Much depends on the editor of a paper. According to the Supreme Court, the editor of a newspaper is responsible for every piece of news published in it and he cannot escape liability by putting the blame on the Resident Editor for publication of a defamation article. Actually the Editor-in-Chief is responsible for everything that goes into the pages and cannot possibly argue that he is only following instruction from the powers-that-be. But can an editor – any editor – afford to challenge his boss without losing his job? It would be a great thing if judges hold private talks with editors to know how a paper is run. They might learn a lot .