Is It The Job Of Journalists To Do What Modi’s Political Opponents Couldn’t?

by R Jagannathan - Mar 15, 2017 02:36 PM +05:30 IST
Is It The Job Of Journalists To Do What  Modi’s Political Opponents Couldn’t?Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (GettyImages)
Snapshot
  • Governments should be criticised for their failings, but at the same time they should be applauded for their successes.

    Biases and ideological lenses are unavoidable, but deliberate decisions to play inveterate opposition to the government are entirely avoidable.

An interesting comment was made by journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, one of the founders of TheWire.in, a high quality online comment and analysis publication with a heavy anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bias. He wrote that the media now has to play the role of the opposition because of the BJP’s sweeping victory in Uttar Pradesh.

After analysing the results, he ends his piece with this observation: “An even heavier responsibility rests on the media, a major section of which, unfortunately, believes proximity to power is the hallmark of good journalism. There will be in Uttar Pradesh no opposition to speak of. The challenge of holding the government accountable – to its promises, to the electorate, to the constitution – now lies in the hands of journalists.”

Quite apart from the implied judgment that no political party is now capable of taking on the BJP, Varadarajan concludes that it is now the job of the media to become the opposition.

Is it?

Is it the job of the media to give a balanced picture, despite its in-built ownership and other personal biases, or to play political opposition to the ruling party, however powerful it may seem today?

While media can adopt adversarial postures with respect to governments in general, should this adversarial posture be restricted to only the central government or governments established by one party, or all governments, including powerful state governments run by powerful individuals? From the time Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister, has the Lutyens media not been running one campaign after another, never mind the facts?

Did the mainstream media, of which Varadarajan was a part of till recently, not single-mindedly go after one state government and its chief minister after the 2002 riots in Gujarat? Old media was complicit in playing the United Progressive Alliance government’s power games, never mind its all-embracing power, when it suited its own predilections. Varadarajan was very much a part of the English media consensus against the BJP even when it was not in power. So his declaration post the UP results is merely a guarantee of continued opposition to the BJP, not a new decision prompted by unexpected developments.

Is it the media’s job only to troll governments or to also applaud it for the good things done? How do we get an informed electorate if the only objective of the media is to provide opposition to the government? Where is the objectivity or neutrality in doing this?

The journalist’s job is to report on events in as balanced a manner as possible; when it comes to opinion, you can have your own ideological lens to view governmental decisions, but that should result in both criticism or applause.

At Swarajya, we have generally been supportive of the Modi government, but have also criticised it for its failures when necessary.

Biases and ideological lenses are unavoidable, but deliberate decisions to play inveterate opposition to the government are entirely avoidable.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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