Fifth Column: A media lynching

Arnab Goswami is breaking a journalistic rule that is definitely etched in stone.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: May 14, 2017 1:29 am
Arnab Goswami, journalism, journalistic ethics, fourth estate, Goswami journalism ethics, Goswami ethics, Republic expose, Shashi Tharoor, Tharoor expose, Sunanda Pushkar, Indian Express Arnab Goswami. (File Photo)

There is a rule in journalism that most of us follow. It is not a rule etched in stone but an unwritten one based on that old idiom that dog does not eat dog. When I tried to find out where the idiom originated and why, all I came up with was the explanation that ‘one disreputable person will not harm another disreputable person’. You do not need me to tell you that disreputable people abound in the media, but on account of the dog not eating dog principle, we of the mighty fourth estate almost never attack our comrades.

This week I am going to break this rule and write a critique of our newest English news channel, Republic. Not because I have anything personal against Arnab Goswami or against his frenetic, haranguing style of television journalism, but because he is breaking a journalistic rule that is definitely etched in stone. This is that journalists must not usurp the powers of the criminal justice system under any circumstances. If an investigation is deliberately slowed down or botched on account of political interference or money power, we have every right to point this out and we should. But, to set up a kangaroo court in which we become judge, jury and executioner is not just wrong but dangerous.

This is what Republic TV did last week with their ‘investigation’ into the death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife. The channel decided that Sunanda Pushkar was murdered and that her husband was complicit. It then tried to prove this through conspiracy theories, innuendoes and open threats to the Congress MP. We have you now, Arnab pronounced over and over again, my reporters have surrounded your house and you cannot go anywhere because we are an ‘independent channel’.

These reporters then appeared on screen to declare that Tharoor’s ‘goons’ assaulted them and pulled a woman reporter’s hair. There were no visuals to corroborate this but plenty of visuals that showed some very goon-like questioning by Republic reporters. Most reporters have had at least one door slammed in their face at some point in their career, by someone who did not want to answer questions. And this is what the visuals showed happening. Nothing more. Republic reporters used melodrama and embellishment to make themselves the story, but this was not all they did wrong.

What was really wrong with Republic’s supposed ‘scoop’ was that Tharoor was judged and sentenced on national television. His late wife who has no means to defend herself was charged with being involved with the Russian mafia in Dubai. And the fantastical theory that she died from some mysterious Russian poison was flung about as if it were a routine, credible possibility. If these things are true, it should have been Republic’s role to investigate and provide details. If the police did not do their job, it is the duty of the media to draw attention to the gaps. And, if the man who conducted the postmortem was leaned on by powerful people to declare that Sunanda Pushkar died from natural causes, then it is valid to reveal every detail. Beyond this journalists cannot and should not go.

Republic seems impatient to prove that it is different to other news channels and that it is prepared to do stories that others are afraid to touch. This is a terrific objective and may they succeed in achieving it. But to pass off a media lynching as investigative journalism causes serious damage to its own reputation and to the reputation of the Indian media in general. It also whips up a passion for lynching in an ugly season of lynchings. Social media is awash with people who want to see Tharoor arrested and jailed. False claims that he was never interrogated by the police are being spread around as fact. The worrying underside of this story, clearly evident on social media, is that people whose political loyalties lie with the BJP revile Tharoor as someone they describe as a ‘Lutyens darling’.

Once more I apologise for being the first person to misuse the name of the architect who built New Delhi. For those who do not understand why the word Lutyens is used so much these days, let me explain that it is seen as representative of a class of people who are privileged enough to live in this most exclusive enclave. What haters of the word Lutyens seem not to have noticed is that more than 99 per cent of the people who actually live in Lutyens Delhi are politicians and bureaucrats.

These are the new Rajas of India and most of them come from the same middle-class background as those on social media who spit the word out as a term of abuse. For the record, there are no ‘Lutyens journalists’. Only good journalists and bad journalists.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh

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  1. P
    Pronob Kumar
    May 23, 2017 at 5:21 pm
    Thank you , Tavleen. Really, you can express your views in such a forthright manner. you are one of our jewel. Let me add here that Tharoor is one of our most promising politician. Let's hope for the best for him.
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      Ankush
      May 21, 2017 at 6:50 am
      You guys came back? Bloody liberals!! Lutyens doesn't know how people likes arnab. Keep barking because that is the only thing you can do now. Good luck.
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        WTF
        May 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm
        It is actually your narrative being challenged. Well, people aren't that dumb as you may presume and in the process you actually expose yourself. BARC Data (All India 1mn ) Republic 51.8 , Times Now 24.5 , India Today 8.1 , NDTV 6.9 , CNN News18 6.64 , News X 1.78 Bigger than all other English news channels put together. Republic creates history 52 market share in week one.
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          hareeshreddy23@gmail
          May 18, 2017 at 11:37 am
          I smell jealousy
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            arvind
            May 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm
            I don't think Arnab broke any rule, rather he sets a new rule in journalising and that is INDIA first. We need to get away with this elitest frame of mind.
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            1. I
              IloveIndia
              May 16, 2017 at 2:22 am
              Truth Prevails...Goood article exposing someone.....
              Reply
              1. S
                SickularistJournoHypocrite
                May 16, 2017 at 1:45 am
                Tavleen Singh is an utter hypocrite. She acts like Journalists have any particular ethical standard besides taking money from the highest bidder, which is usually the stani ISI. Journalists in India are always trying to function as judge, jury and executioner. The problem for the Sickularist journos, is that they failed with Modi. Badly.
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                  projit
                  May 15, 2017 at 11:26 pm
                  bravo !
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Subramani Ananthapadmanabhan
                    May 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm
                    Where was this great shift in cognition, when media covered Talvars? Where was it when our respected PM was hounded for 12 years? Where was it hiding when all of India's media did a media trial when Swami Nithyananda attacked using a fake video, and police put out ads requesting people to file an FIR and made an arrest to keep the media from hounding them. Where was this questioning when every court in INdia and abroad said the Swami was targetted and the media was wrong? I did not see a long article like this one.. All we remember is seeing a 5 second flash of an apology. While I don't like any of India's mainstream media for refusing to cover real news, I do like the fact thatthe media is fee the bad effect of it dropping "Cluster bombs" on others. THis is just Karma!
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                      kris
                      May 15, 2017 at 8:13 pm
                      maam only you are closest to Sunanda and you have the right to bring out conspiracy theories. If another journalist brings out facts you get red under the collar? What happened to your reporting? did you investigate the last few years or just be part of the Lutyens champagne circuit. Shame on you not on Arnab who only pointed out facts...
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                      1. M
                        Mohini
                        May 15, 2017 at 4:57 pm
                        I agree with your argument that journalists cannot subs ute the judiciary. However, since the Gujarat riots the Indian media has been guilty of what you are referring to, a trial by media. If it weren't for Rahul hi being an out and out gone case Modi would never have become PM or NDA come to power. Destiny is a strange thing.
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                        1. S
                          Shrikant Sharma
                          May 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm
                          howmuch uhavetakenfrom shashi
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                            Kp Sudhakar
                            May 15, 2017 at 3:40 pm
                            Now, the snakes come out after awash! Fourth estate rep's, all these years, are never 99 or 100 of Lutyen's Delhi,....but counted in tens, cover-up 99 of corrupt politicians/ officials living in Luyen's Delhi...hang around them for stupid celebrity bites and finally diverting attention of main issues. All iLiberal pJournos are unable to digest the criticism of AG. Now he had become non-liberal for them.
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                              Rama N
                              May 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm
                              Certainly its different but not unheard of what "REPUBLIC" and Arnab is up to.. Suddenly, the w media (some veterens & mostly juveniles) started talking about "'professionalism" after REPUBLIC's launch.. See these Sardesai, Barkha varieties all along do only SUPARI journalism. I remember arnab running Sunanda murder trial last year when he was anchoring for TIMESNOW... Indian Express today run their newspapers on SUPARI mode only... Modern world madam, judiciary works for publicity & visitibility and press reciprocating them with judicial services... CHILL...
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                              1. O
                                Ob_Server
                                May 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm
                                This is the age of charlatans. From Modi and Trump to Bill O'Reilly and Arnab Goswami, the charlatans are in power everywhere.
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                                  Rohit
                                  May 15, 2017 at 1:42 pm
                                  Not at all Indian Media is complicit, they never beleived in Judiciary > Haven't we seen likes of Rajdeep , Barkha , Ravish and minnions like Punya Parun Joshi , very few names. Haven't we witnessed how they want to subtly or ovetly try to change public perception. Haven't we seen Rajdeep idulging in street fight and Barkha going around the world advertising what apathetic government of m murders have come . We have witnessed all ....giving , hounding many many personalities because they don't fit in their "Luyten Zone " citizen criteria. Haven't we witnessed how they gauged public anger and channelised public to go behind "The Piper Man" Thanks to Social Media now we can express our opinions also. We have witnessed to much , Now Public says....Do whatever you wanna do, I will believe whatever I want to Jai Hind
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                                    Ram
                                    May 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm
                                    India is a democracy and press is free. Aranab is free to pursue his type of journalism so is Ms. Talveen.Even likes of sagarika,Burkha,Nidhi or Rajdeep too can peruse their type of making heroes out of crooks like kaniah or kejirwal.It finally is the people who decide who is more credible and that decides ratings and revenue. That is best way to deal with this situation rather than creating a type of school uniform to all media activities. Only curb should be placed if the media is involed in doing propa a against India at the behast of India's enemies, like 'peace tv' did.
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                                      Dr santhosh
                                      May 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm
                                      Arnab is far far better than Tavleen singh . Just because he is rocking all are jealous of him . But Tavleen is forgotten that writing these kinds of article makes Arnab more famous . Arnab Rocks atleast we can see patriotism in him .
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                                        Nationalist hindu
                                        May 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm
                                        This article clearly show that how incredible Arnab Goswami is. He broke the old rules of journalism which say lick the feet of congress and do support anti-national and anti-hindus. Arnab Goswami is the Abhimanyu who know how to fight against the corrupt journalists by breaking the chakraviuh of bad journalism, also the most disturbing/fearing thing for all the corrupt journalists is this abhimanyun(Arnab) can not be deceived by the deceitful corpses of this era. Now someone is showing a mirror to those who have auctioned even their soul in the hands of the Congress then these people bones start burning with pain. Arnab you are a rockstar just keep shining so that these goon journalists can RIP. We all are with you and love you. These dead people can't understand the emotions of living life. These people have there wrost time and this is just because of your true new way of journalism. Thanks for make these corrupt journalists cry. This is the end of goon corrupt journalists era
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                                          Ramachandran Narayan
                                          May 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm
                                          Dr Santosh others are less patriotic you mean!!!!
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                                          Tarun
                                          May 15, 2017 at 12:19 pm
                                          A pathological haters to nationalist Tavleen Singh lecturing about media ethics.. naxali comarade!!!! all you are finished
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                                            Fed up
                                            May 15, 2017 at 12:18 pm
                                            Now ur trying to make urself the news by going on proclaiming first person repeatedly. Do u guys realise that ppl r smart n by now fed up sick with the entire media community n that's y the contest show TRPs r rocketing. You didn't get anything more important to report on except mR. Goswami.. Stop wasting everyone's time n teach a bunch of slum kids to write abc instead of subjecting us to media politics
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