Indian Media: Caving in

The current general election in India has been one of the most talked about in the history of Independent India. The stakes are high, especially for the two major political parties Congress and the BJP. Both parties, especially the BJP has unleashed a marketing and media blitzkrieg to put across its viewpoint to the maximum number of voters. Even the social media has been extensively and aggressively used to reach more people, especially in the urban centres. The electoral campaign has been very aggressive and as a result the press freedom in India has been dying a silent death. It is very reminiscent of the emergency era when the freedom of press in India was muzzled. Most commentators say that journalists and editors would crawl when they were merely asked to bend by the ruling dispensation.

This time around, the media in India has bent backwards to accommodate the diktats of Mr Modi, who sees himself as the next Prime Minister of India. Most big names in the Indian media have already started prostrating before him even before he would ask them to bend. The role of Indian media, especially the big corporate media has been dubious in pushing the agenda of mr Modi and trying to give him a facelift and a ‘clean chit’.

The early signs of this caving in of the Indian media were visible with the resignation of Sidharath Vardharajan, the former editor of The Hindu, a paper known for its left of centre outlook. He made his resignation public on Twitter and said the management of the paper was unhappy over his criticism of publishing the rallies of Narendra Modi or Senior Congress leaders. In an interview, following his resignation, Mr Vardarajan said, ‘’ On the day I quit, I was editing a blockbuster of a story involving RIL, Mukesh Ambani and a private media company. I am not sure that story — and other hard-hitting investigative pieces, especially on corporate issues — will ever make it to print now.’’. It is interesting to note that Reliance Industries, led by Mukesh Ambani, owns many media houses in India, including Network 18, which runs four news channels and a few news portals. It is alleged that Network 18 has imposed diktats on its journalists to go soft on Narendra Modi, who is known to be very close of the Indian Industry, especially Mukesh Ambani.

Arvind Kejriwal, who himself and his party have been at the receiving end of political hoodlums, often belonging to the BJP had recently alleged that the Reliance group was taking orders from Narendra Modi. He also alleged that reliance Industries, using its corporate power and its deep reach in the Indian Media had silenced all voices of criticism.  Open is another newsmagazine which seems to have caved in. It recently sacked its political editor over his alleged political motivations. In the aftermath of his sacking, the magazine wrote a piece in praise of Amit Shah, who is Narendra Modi’s right hand man.

It seems that the Indian media has seen the writing on the wall. It has gone to the town creating a wave and an aura around Narendra Modi, who is known to muzzle the media in the state of Gujarat, which he has ruled with an iron hand for more than a decade now. The mainstream Indian media has caved in to the diktats of right wing forces in India even before they have come to power. In case, Modi becomes the next PM of India, whatever credibility and neutrality the Indian media has had so far, will take a huge dent.

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