Somewhere in the UK, Vijay Mallya is repeatedly kicking himself. Because shortly after he sent out feelers indicating the possibility of a homecoming, Mehul Choksi, whose scam is bigger than Mallya’s, discovered a diamond-sharp means for evading extradition. He bought himself some Antiguan citizenship and argued that he could not return for fear of being lynched, and the outbreak of frustrated rage in media recalled a predator cheated of its prey. Only Ravish Kumar kept his cool, with a bleakly droll take on the situation, highlighting the pain of enforcement agencies who are vainly trying to habeas Choksi’s corpus, while he chills in one of the world’s leading holiday destinations. “Let us not examine Choksi, but Antigua,” he said, and proceeded to show tourism footage of the beautiful coastline of Antigua, with yachts at anchor and the tang in the sea air almost sensible. Clever ploy. Bet it was free to air.
Across the border, there was the disgrace of the Pakistan election, which suffers from a deficit as a verdict, because no one seems to know what happens next. Right-thinking Pakistanis were bracing for a spate of chummy, fruity headlines in the British press, concerning Imran the cricketer and sex symbol of the past rather than the problematic politician of the present. None had appeared at the time, while votes were still being counted, but The New York Times stepped into the breach with this: ‘Cricket star. Sex symbol. Prime Minister?’ The very first paragraph described Pakistan as ‘an Islamic republic with nuclear weapons’. The bright side of that election is that Indian journalists racked up more interview time with the future prime minister of Pakistan than they have with our present prime minister.
Republic TV is in a world of its own. Here’s a sample tweet from the channel: “#MobsforVotes: In run-up to 2019, mobs being unleashed to stop Modi in 2019? Share your views using the hashtag.” Republic is also “the only channel to confront Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh again.” To confront, it appears, is to ask a question, which is what all journalists do. In this case, at Karan Thapar’s book launch in Delhi, Republic’s question to the two Congressmen was: “NDA’s Rafale deal is cheaper than UPA’s Rafale deal. What do you have to say about that?” The two completely ignored the question and disappeared into an elevator, leaving the anchor complaining that the security detail was not allowing Republic’s reporter to confront Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.
And then he announced that it was a “massive exclusive newsbreak in which Rahul Gandhi has been confronted by three Republic journalists.” He even read out the names of the hapless threesome, whose “newsbreak” consisted of failing to get a question answered. Which is a fate that journalists suffer all the time, and try to conceal it as well as possible.
There are other situations where it could be prudent not to name names. Names like that of the BJP legislator who proclaimed in Bangalore that he would have intellectuals shot if he were made minister for home. The man is a serial offender in this regard, and obviously seeks media mileage with outrageous public statements. He got it, too. For hours on end, it was hard to find a news channel which was not either showing or discussing him. If such people got less airtime, there would be fewer such people.
The BBC used to be the go-to vendor for science news but surprisingly, they were easily outstripped by Al Jazeera in the coverage of the discovery of a water body under the Martian polar ice cap. It explained why water could not be reliably found on the Martian surface, except in the form of ice — it would boil away in the thin air and be lost to space on account of the low gravity. The principles of radar remote sensing, by which the find was made, were visually depicted. And it was explained that the data on which it was based was years old, and was held back until any possibility of a false positive was ruled out. BBC was deeply interested in the main question — how long would it take to confirm or deny the existence of life? Years, they were told, and they dismissed the bearer of the bad news with a very tight and very English smile.