Unfortunate controversy at the Madison Square raises many questions about the role of media in the changing world. It is not about individuals like Rajdeep Sardesai who has known revulsion for PM Modi, the real question is how and what media should report when our PM is visiting a foreign land.
Since 28th Sep 2014, when PM Modi was supposed to address the over enthusiast Indian Diaspora at the Madison Square Garden an unfortunate incident took place. Many media houses initially reported that some Modi supporters had attacked Rajdeep Sardesai, the popular Indian journalist. (See this link: http://youtu.be/HfnoAMYWplk). Infuriated Modi supporters in the United States released another youtube video:http://youtu.be/U9Totdio05s.
This video shows that Sardesai first abused and attacked a person at the Madison Square Garden, New York. He also claimed that Mr Sardesai asked the provocative questions that vitiated the atmosphere. Two Indians were fighting on the US streets on the issue involving the Indian is unfortunate, who started the scuffle and who provoked whom hardly matters. It is more unfortunate for Indian media as every PM visit is getting into some controversy because media is overstretching itself to win brownie points in journalistic competition. Especially while reporting from the foreign land, when the UN speech was critical and so was the unprecedented function at the Madison square. Instead of reporting about the electrifying atmosphere and power of the Indian diaspora, where was the scope for issues like ‘two India’, ‘Modi frenzy mob’ and ‘2002 riots, but the issues were referred, simply because the basic principles of journalism are compromised with the advent of 24 X 7 journalism. Last September, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the PM of India and in the same US, a controversy occurred over ‘dehati aurat’ took place, involving another controversial media figure Ms Barkha Dutt, had occurred. While reffering to the incident, Modi in his public speech invoked a lesson from Mahabharat, stating ‘Vayam Panchadhikam Shatam’ (literally means ‘When it comes to fighting with others we are 105’). It means whatever be our differences in domestic politics, PM is a PM, and if he is representing the nation then we should not carry our differences to the foreign land.
Mr Rajdeep Sardesai perhaps missed this point. Here is an analysis of Mr Sardesai himself in the function organised by Mumbai Press Club after the 2014 LS election results were announced. He said media had become arrogant and we have started thinking that we can make or break anything. He also critically remarked that media has either adopted 'Supari Journalism' or it has limited itself to the role of cheer leaders. Inability to ask right questions was also referred. It seems, his diagnosis was right but he himself has forgotten what he preached.
Many in social media are talking about Mr Sardesai and his antecedents. Of course, it matters as a track record but that does not justify targeting a journalist It does not also mean that everybody should praise Modi and should not raise critical questions about government, but asking ‘right questions at the right time’ is also important. Otherwise questions will be asked, especially from English electronic media, whether they practise Supari Journalism or are playing the role of cheer leaders.