Telescope: Loud speakers and answer seekershttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ravi-shankar-prasad-cambridge-analytica-facebook-data-leak-39-indians-killed-in-iraq-5107824/

Telescope: Loud speakers and answer seekers

It's not that media does not ask questions. Some do it only of the Opposition.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Congress, Cambridge Analytica, Facebook data leak, BJP, 39 Indians killed in Iraq, Sushma Swaraj, Indian express
If Jayalalithaa’s death and Sridevi’s can receive carpet coverage stretching into endless days, why did 39 dead Indians have to vie for space with the Opposition?

Many unrelated events and issues this week, so do forgive a somewhat haphazard column without a “phantom thread” lacing it together.

If news channels must be partisan, can they be a little more sophisticated about it — not in your face? On Wednesday, after IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of using Cambridge Analytica, News X was all fired up: “Data theft singes Congress”, it headlined, “RaGa rattled”. But “#VoteFixingScam” on Republic, and “Cong-BJP brainwashing you?” on Times Now suggested what Sreenivasan Jain on NDTV 24×7 explained: That Cambridge Analytica claimed to have worked with both national parties.

And then there’s Mosul. The death of 39 Indians, confirmed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha, Tuesday, got Times Now and News X stiff with self-righteousness. For them, “Netagiri over death” and how the Opposition “trivialises death” by allegedly shouting slogans during Swaraj’s announcement, were the key takeaways. They deplored the “morally bankrupt” Congress at the “lowest point in India’s polity” (Times Now) — “it can’t get more shameful” (News X). Really?

Others went to Mosul: ABP, Aaj Tak, replayed old coverage of Mosul. ABP interviewed a Bangladeshi in Mosul in and about 2014 when the Indians went missing and showed us what it claimed was the “grave” where the Indians were buried; Aaj Tak had its reporters Mosul visit last year. CNN News 18 interviewed Harjit Masih “the man who escaped” Mosul to tell the tale of how the Indians had died but was contradicted by the Indian government. Meanwhile, the likes of NDTV India, Republic, spoke to the bereaved families “shocked” to learn of the deaths from TV.

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While reporters/anchors like Meetu Jain (India Today) questioned the government’s actions on the Mosul tragedy, by evening channels like Times Now and Republic went after the Congress’s Lingayat card in Karnataka, deploring the party of “deplorables” in debates.

It saddens and puzzles you: If Jayalalithaa’s death and Sridevi’s can receive carpet coverage stretching into endless days, why did 39 dead Indians have to vie for space with the Opposition?

Congressman Kapil Sibal was pretty deplorable too. At the Congress plenary discussion on the media, he said the party should give a “commitment” that when in power it would act against those who had misused the media (“durupyog”). Rajeev Gowda deplored the “lack of courage” of the media and Randeep Surjewala said that journalists were “loud speakers” not “answer seekers”. All journalists should be very, very worried about a future Congress government, notwithstanding Rahul Gandhi’s promise to protect the media, during his plenary session speech.

That speech was hard-hitting and once again underlined that the reluctant politician in Rahul is someone of the past.

Better than her speeches, Sonia Gandhi’s rare media interaction with Aroon Purie at the India Today conclave in Mumbai was highly watchable. She was relaxed and fairly honest: Asked about giving advice to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she was taken aback: “I wouldn’t dare advise him”. Why did she not become PM in 2004? “I was aware of my limitations”. Coalition partners for the Congress in 2019? Difficult, because at the “ground level we are opponents”.

Zee’s Sudhir Chowdhury is not known as an “answer seeker” of the BJP. So it was a pleasant surprise to see him quiz BJP President Amit Shah on the bypoll losses, going so far as to suggest that there was a touch of “arrogance” (ahankar) in the party, prompting Shah to testily remark that his questions seemed prompted by the Congress! Shah had interviews with Times Now and India Today too where he blamed Rahul Gandhi for everything. What else is new?

Surjewala was wrong: TV news anchors across channels do seek answers but some seek them from only the Opposition. However, after the BJP’s bypoll defeat, especially in Gorakhpur, Sonia’s dinner for Opposition leaders, the TDP’s withdrawal from the NDA, a possible no-confidence motion in Parliament, got even Times Now, Republic and News X wondering whether the “khichdi” coalition (Times Now) might lead to a “Modi mukt” India?

Are the times now “a changin”?

Want something weird? The opening episode of a new TV series, Bepanah (Colors), ends with the car accident death of a man and a woman — married to another woman and man. The police extricated the injury-free bodies from the remains of the vehicle and laid them out under white sheets. When the respective spouses cradle their bodies, they find that they are still firmly holding hands — huh?

Want some good TV? The Handmaid’s Tale is just a remote switch away: Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel adapted so well for television, seems to tell the story of us, now (AXN).