September 21, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the INDIA coalition is right to boycott certain journalists. We also look at the property guidance value revision in Karnataka, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is the INDIA coalition right to boycott certain journalists?
The backbone of any democracy is a well-informed electorate. As the country gears up for the 2024 elections, parties and politicians dig in their heels as the countdown continues. The BJP and the opposition parties are trying to offer people different ideologies and visions for the next five years of India. As the incumbent, the BJP needs to play offence and defence, while the opposition, particularly the new Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) coalition, is trying to go on the offence while staying united.
One recent move by the INDIA coalition has come under scrutiny and criticism. Given the perceived media landscape in India, the coalition released a list of journalists perceived to be friendly to the ruling BJP that it would boycott. They don’t want to give these journalists any more airtime. Is the INDIA coalition undermining the spirit of the free press and its electoral chances?
The journalistic and media landscape in the country has undergone transformations over the decades. Gone are the days when only a few TV news channels were on air, like NDTV and Doordarshan. There’s now a plethora, particularly many in regional languages, to cater to India’s diverse demographics.
In any country, the discussion on the media landscape eventually moves to how partisan they are. In the US, for example, there’s a clear distinction between partisan and non-partisan media. Some companies and journalists wear their partisan leanings on their sleeves, while others stay neutral.
For instance, Fox News makes no illusions as to who they support, giving plenty of airtime to conservative politicians and policies. They also parrot dangerous misinformation, racist and sexist ideologies and commentary. There was a time, especially during election season, when questions were raised on whether liberal politicians should even engage with or go on Fox News shows.
So, what’s the deal in India? You could argue it’s somewhat similar. Now, partisan media antics aren’t unique to India. Since the BJP took office nearly a decade ago, the party, and by extension, the country, has been criticised for its treatment of journalists and the freedom of the press.
There’s a term that was coined by former NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar. It’s called Godi Media. It refers to a section of the media that broadcasts favourably toward the Modi government – essentially a mouthpiece for their policies and ideology. Since then, certain journalists and media houses have been accused of spreading misinformation and being used as a microphone for the BJP. Objectivity isn’t the name of the game for them.
Kumar coined the term following the 2014 polls. He criticised the media for its election coverage. He argued some news channels gave undue importance to the BJP and its rhetoric with no fair and balanced coverage. Over the years, several channels like Republic TV, Times Now, and Zee News, among others, were dubbed part of the Godi Media.
As the INDIA coalition took shape over the past several months, one of the challenges it’ll have to navigate is the Indian political media landscape. After its recent first coordination committee meeting, the coalition decided to take a bold step and release a list of 14 journalists across 9 news channels it would boycott and not give any airtime. They are Aditi Tyagi of Bharat Express, Sudhir Chaudhary and Chitra Tripathi of Aaj Tak, Arnab Goswami of Republic Bharat, Aman Chopra, Amish Devgan and Anand Narasimhan of News 18, Gaurav Sawant and Shiv Aroor of India Today, Prachi Parashar of India TV, Rubika Liyaquat of Bharat 24, Navika Kumar and Sushant Sinha of Times Now, and Ashok Shrivastav of DD News.
Obviously, the BJP sees this as an opportunity to take the coalition head-on. Is this the right move for the INDIA coalition? Should they boycott the so-called “opposition turf”?
VIEW: Drastic but necessary
When the coalition released the list, it came with a few necessary caveats. Congress leader Pawan Khera said the coalition didn’t oppose or hate the people mentioned. It was a case of putting the country first. The coalition members don’t want to get dragged down to what it sees as low-brow, provocative debates and discussions.
From the coalition’s point of view, this is a way to let the country know that certain journalists and media houses parrot the ruling disposition’s talking points. When it comes to the coalition getting its message across, it has challenges ahead. Some of those are in its control. Why engage with media outlets which enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the government? Propping them up doesn’t do anyone, any good, especially during elections when the media cycle goes into overdrive.
There’s some evidence to back up the coalition’s decision. A study of 30 Indian newspapers and 41 news channels between 2017 and 2018 showed rampant media bias. The BJP’s media machinery is at an all-time high. The Adani takeover of NDTV is one example. Before this, the BJP was reluctant to send any of its representatives to the news channel. In the year leading up to the 2019 elections, newspapers that received more ad revenue from the BJP were more likely to propagate conservative views and cultivate a conservative readership.
COUNTERVIEW: Not the way to go
While it’s understandable that people are drawn to news sources that validate their preexisting views, the INDIA coalition’s decision to boycott journalists and news channels doesn’t make for good reading. If the strategy is to call out partisan, harmful, and right-wing rhetoric, then that’s what they should do. Take the fight head-on instead of retreating. It’s a sign of weakness and shows the coalition’s unwillingness to be challenged.
The Congress and the other coalition partners aren’t innocent of practising narrow-minded politics that they criticise the BJP for. One of the opposition’s weaknesses has been its inability to take on the BJP for its political vendettas and intolerance. If the BJP is accused of controlling the media and the opposition wants to boycott media houses and journalists, then Indian democracy, the media landscape, and its press freedom standing will be the ultimate loser.
The goal is to restore the nation’s damaged “secular and democratic” credentials. However, the decision to release the list and its intent goes against that goal. Almost a dozen of the 28 in the coalition are ruling parties in states. Congress is a national party that has held power at the Centre before. A constitutional system is threatened from within when it becomes an “us” versus “them” battle. Shrinking the space for debate and engagement is not the way to go.
- What is Godi Media and top Godi Media anchors? – Ground Report
- Media Bias and Democracy in India – Stimson
- INDIA coalition will boycott 14 anchors across nine TV news channels – Newslaundry
- BJP’s Propaganda, Probe Agencies and Partisan Media: The Challenges Before Opposition’s INDIA Bloc – The Wire
- N Ram on INDIA Bloc’s TV Anchor Boycott List and State of Journalism – The Wire
- INDIA coalition’s boycott of select anchors dangerously dents press freedom more – The Federal
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The INDIA coalition is right to boycott certain journalists.
b) The INDIA coalition is wrong to boycott certain journalists.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Modi’s Women’s Reservation Bill has an OBC-sized oversight. Undermines inclusivity, fairness
For the Left:
Odisha is becoming an IAS state. Patnaik-Pandian combo is changing grammar of governance
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Operation Smile’s success (Uttarakhand) – The Uttarakhand police, under its ‘Operation Smile’ initiative that began on September 1, have successfully located 568 missing individuals within a fortnight. This includes 283 women, 27 girls, 213 men, and seven boys.
Why it matters: Initiated in 2015, the operation’s primary goal is to trace missing persons and reunite them with their families or provide rehabilitation. Since its inception, 3,255 missing persons have been found. Director General of Police, Ashok Kumar, emphasized the operation’s role in combating human trafficking in the state.
Incentive for dairy farmers (Goa) – On the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi, approximately 3,200 milk farmers affiliated with Goa Dairy received an incentive of ₹7 crore from the state government. The Goa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union, popularly known as Goa Dairy, is a federation of around 172 village-level milk collection societies. For the milk supplied from April to July, farmers received a support price, with the amount for April and May being ₹3.6 crore and for June and July being ₹3.3 crore.
Why it matters: The financial boost is expected to motivate farmers and enhance milk production in the state. The payment had been pending due to delays in formalities, but the situation has now been rectified.
Global ambition (West Bengal) – Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during a business gathering in Barcelona, Spain, expressed her belief that Bengal will be a pivotal player for both India and the world. She emphasized Bengal’s leading role in India, drawing attention to its rich culture, renaissance, literature, and passion for football.
Why it matters: Recently, Bengal collaborated with Spain’s La Liga to establish a football training academy in the state. Banerjee highlighted Bengal’s rapid economic growth, its strategic geographical location connecting to neighbouring countries and South East Asia, and its investment-friendly environment, including low operational costs and a stable workforce.
Property value revision (Karnataka) – Revenue Minister, Krishna Byre Gowda, announced that the revised “guidance value” for properties will be implemented from October 1. The overall guidance value is set to increase by an average of 25 to 30%. This value, which represents the minimum selling price of a property determined by the government, has not been updated for the past five years.
Why it matters: The revision aims to curb black money transactions and align the guidance value closer to market rates. In areas like Bengaluru’s Electronic City, where the market rate is significantly higher than the guidance value, adjustments have been made accordingly.
Actor banned (Manipur) – Popular Manipuri film actress, Soma Laishram, has been barred from acting in films and attending social events for three years by the Imphal-based organization, Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL). The ban was imposed as she participated in a beauty pageant in New Delhi on September 16, despite appeals to celebrities to refrain from entertainment events due to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur.
Why it matters: This conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 170 people since May 3. Laishram defended her participation, stating it was a platform to communicate about the crisis in Manipur. The ban underscores the heightened sensitivities and tensions in Manipur due to the ongoing ethnic conflict.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
1.8 million – Per the last census in 2021, the total number of people of ethnic Indian origin in Canada was 1.8 million.