Truth is Casualty in Battle between Media and Government

In Mahabharata, Dharmaraj Yudhisthira, who never spoke untruth, told Dronacharya that “Aswathama, is no more”. He mumbled Aswatham, the elephant. Hearing this Dronacharya gave up his will to live and he was killed by a Pandava general.  Yudhisthira was compelled to speak untruth to gain an advantage in the battle of Kurukshetra. Today, we will in all probability blame Dronacharya for not listening carefully that an elephant, and not his son, has died. More and more, truth is appearing like a flexible commodity that changes shape and form depending upon how it is being told, how much is being told, and who is telling it. Because what I see as truth, another person may see it differently.

Recently two high profile journalists – Mr. Milind Khandekar, Mr. Punya Prasun Bajpai have resigned from ABP news channel group.. Another journalist, Mr. Abhisar Sharma has been suspended for fifteen days. The matter was raised in parliament. Opposition blamed government pressure for the resignation. As expected government rejected the charge. In NDTV’s Left Right and Center program, anchored by Nidhi Razdan, a similar arguments were made by senior journalists – Mr. N Ram, Mr. Siddhartha Bhatia, Ms. Swati Chaturvedi and Ms. Nalini Singh. Though there was no proof, perception was built that journalists were fired under government pressure.

Many believe, Mr Punya Prasun Bajpayi had antagonized government because he contradicted claim of government about increasing, say doubling, income of farmers. In his “Mann ki Baat” program, prime minister Mr. Modi had chatted with a woman farmer in Chattisgarh. Woman had claimed that her income from farm had increased. A team from Mr. Bajpai had visited and interviewed the woman and filed a report that the woman was coached by certain officers from New Delhi about how and what she should talk with the prime minster.

As is apparent from interview conducted by ABP news team that they were repeatedly asking if income had increased from paddy cultivation. To which the answer was no. Later, when another channel had interviewed the woman and asked more specific question, she explained that her income did not increase from paddy cultivation but from processing of custard apple. Then, Mr. Bajpai also claimed that even after custard apple processing, woman’s income did not double because proceeds were shared among the group. Mr. Bajpai sneered will a mere fifty rupee increase be called doubling of farm income? Can it even be called a profit? Mr. Bajpai did not tell us what was woman’s earlier. His interviewer had captured that by her own admission paddy cultivation was not profitable. Without showing a way forward, Mr. Bajpai started ridiculing an effort by government. Is this fair game in the name of honest reporting?

Besides the news story shows poverty of thinking of channel anchor and reporter. While government is thinking along parallel lines, Mr. Bajpai and his team appear to be stuck on thinking along linear line. For increasing income, does it only have to come from paddy cultivation? Can one not think differently? Apparently, from Mr. Bajpai’s program, not. Is this paucity of vision or deliberate peddling of half truth?

It must be remembered Mr. Bajpai has strong political view and leaning. Earlier, he was caught on camera discussing how an interview with Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister, should be aired and played. Given this background, it is not surprising if Mr. Bajpai peddles half truth against government he does not favour.

Did peddling such half truth lead to their firing / suspension? Promoters of ABP group had antagonized Mamata Didi in West Bengal and survived. Could they have not withstood pressure from central government? NDTV claims it has faced pressure. The channel is functioning as usual sitting in Delhi. So it is not imperative that a channel has to shut shop under government pressure.

ABP news group has put their TV business up for sale. In such transactions, purchaser want the seller to get rid of high value employees. Could it be that ABP group has got rid of employees on the pre text of government pressure? A few years earlier the same group had laid off around, 900 employees.





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