Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ban on two news channels ...

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
Last week, the twitter timeline suddenly erupted. Screams of fascism, gagging etc were going around. The context of this outrage by select ‘liberals’ was that an article critical of Amit Shah was pulled down by DNA after publishing it. It was written by known BJP-hater Rana Ayyub. As the day progressed, the outrage of these ‘liberals’ reached its peak. Sample this from a tweet of Sagarika Ghose.
“You can gag us, wipe out our articles, threaten us with corporate clout, but you will NEVER silence the voice of India’s proud free press”
If you’d look at this tweet without knowing the full context, you would assume that all hell has broken lose on the Indian media, and a major crisis has befallen us. However, given Sagarika’s penchant to dramatise the most trivial of events, this tweet doesn’t come as a surprise.
Then came Barkha Dutt’s tweet:
As many mentioned, Irony died after this tweet was put out!
As many mentioned, Irony died after this tweet was put out! Some even resorted to fear-mongering of the worst sort:
“Op-eds disappear from websites, news channels get political censors, NGOs are threatened with shutdown… how far is Indira’s Emergency?”
Now, I would like to walk you through an event that happened in the newly formed Telangana State from last month.
On June 13, the new CM of Telangana was finishing his 2-hour long impressive speech on the challenges ahead for Telangana. At the end of the speech, he says that he wants to mention something which has angered him a lot. He gives a short introduction on how the people of Telangana were trampled by those from Andhra and announces that “the Tirade continues” even today! He then quotes a few lines from a program from the news channel TV9 – which I will reproduce here shortly.
Every night TV9 runs a (purportedly) satirical news program called ‘Bullet News’. This program is very low on quality – anyone who watches it can vouch for it. It is a mystery as to how such a pitiful program got prime time slot on a channel like TV9. Neither the content nor the language is of acceptable standard. And it is a big ear-sore too.
On June 10, this program ran a small bit on the behaviour of the newly elected MLAs of the Telangana Assembly. Since members were new, most of them made a few mistakes, while taking oath and while walking around. As the program is used to filthy language.
“Assembly looked as if those who are used to drinking country liquor have just been given a foreign brand of liquor to drink”.
“It beats us as to why those who wear lungis were given laptops”.<
These are just some samples.
Understandably, KCR got agitated. However, he went a step further and accused TV9 of being anti-Telangana. In the same program, a few minutes before this outrageous language, the program used one more despicable line. Apparently, TDP leaders in Andhra Pradesh were unhappy with the size of the Cabinet and for not being given Ministerial berths. How does the program describe this? “This is similar to asking for a Benaras saree when there is not enough flesh to wear a bikini“!
KCR, however, was deeply disturbed by the language, and read out this language in the Assembly. He made people look at it in isolation and made it look like TV9 is a totally anti-Telangana channel. Then he moved on to counter alleged propaganda of another newspaper, Andhra Jyothy (AJ). This newspaper carried following headlines one day.
“(Telangana) Ministers shy away from speaking
Is it from Andhra, then tax it
Sand rates to go up in Telangana because they come from AP
KCR took very strong objection to this language. He said that he has instructed Ministers not to talk to media out of turn, particularly, when it came to Cabinet meets. KCR questioned how can the newspaper write such a headline defaming the Ministers, merely because they are following CM’s instructions? He goes on to ask who announced that items from Andhra will be taxed. He then went on to blame these two news organisations as anti-Telangana, and said such behaviour will not be tolerated. He assured the House that prompt action will be taken against these organisations. Andhra Jyothy newspaper also runs a news channel – ABN.
The very next day, cable operators announced a ban on the channels TV9 and ABN-AJ. Both the channels have refused to give in. It has been a month and still these channels are not back on air in the Telangana. Is KCR justified in his outrage? Absolutely yes! Is he justified in wanting to initiate a case against TV9? Absolutely! Is the ban justified by the cable operators? Absolutely not!
The distinction is very important to make. The Government has not banned the channels, but the cable operators have. The Government has made no attempt to ensure that this ban is lifted. It is also weird that KCR accused Andhra Jyothy as being ‘anti-Telangana’, given that Andhra Jyothy was one of the first newspapers to fully endorse a new Telangana State.
Just because filthy language was used for five minutes on a TV channel, the channel has been banned for a month in all over the State. Just because false news has been printed in a newspaper, its sister channel has been banned for a month in all over the State. Do you see any outrage? Do you see any programs condemning this? To give a proper perspective, this act is equivalent to shutting down the entire DNA website and newspaper because of Rana Ayyub’s article!
Even political parties are afraid to take up this case because of the fear of being branded anti-Telangana. This is the sad state of discourse in the newly formed State. Yet our Delhi-based self-proclaimed ‘national’ media is mum on this blatant transgression of freedom of speech. The program ‘Bullet News’ uses filthy language, no doubt. Legal recourse is the proper action, not a complete ban merely because you didn’t like what they said.
It never ceases to amuse me as to how the ‘liberals’ live in their own cocoon. A factually inaccurate article is bought down, on hindsight. Retweets galore happen. Rhetorical arguments flow through effortlessly, while two news channels are banned for a month, and not even a squeal from the usual suspects!


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