Boycott of anchors by INDIA bloc vs boycott of anchors by BJP

There were mixed reactions on Thursday to the alliance releasing a list of 14 TV news anchors to whose ‘shows and events’ alliance partners will not send representatives

Screen grab of Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera from his video explaining the decision to boycott the 14 TV news anchors
Screen grab of Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera from his video explaining the decision to boycott the 14 TV news anchors

NH Digital

Reminding the country that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself have in the past boycotted TV anchors such as Karan Thapar and Ravish Kumar, a leader of the Opposition INDIA bloc claimed that the decision was taken after long deliberation and "with a heavy heart", and recalled how the government had "hounded NDTV" under Dr Prannoy Roy, and media outlets like Newsclick and Quint among others.

The boycott of news anchors is neither new nor novel, he argued, and said it had become necessary as a last resort.

In a short video shared on social media by Pawan Khera, chairman of the media committee of the Congress, he said that for the past nine years, these anchors have been mocking Opposition leaders, twisting their statements, and refusing to ask hard questions of the government. Fake news has been pedalled, media trials conducted, and Opposition spokespersons given far less time during debates to put across their views.

The alliance partners, however, have finalised the list of those anchors for the boycott who have been spreading "hatred, fake news and the communal virus" in society, the leader said on condition of anonymity. The evidence of such conduct was already in the public domain and will be produced if necessary.

Meanwhile, Khera expressed hope that the anchors themselves would mend their ways and times will change, hinting that the boycott can then be reviewed.

The decision was predictably denounced by BJP leaders, who snidely commented that the Opposition, and the Congress in particular, appeared to be still nursing an ‘Emergency mindset’, with BJP president JP Nadda accusing the alliance of bullying and silencing the media.

Opposition leaders, however, have been quick to reel out instances of irresponsible behaviour by the anchors. One of them this week posted that she still feels humiliated by then US President Richard Nixon keeping Indira Gandhi waiting at the White House. While the relationship between the two leaders was indeed frosty, the anchor failed to recall how Indira Gandhi had rebuffed Nixon and the US and stood up to bullying by White House.

Some leaders also cited recent reports of Sohit Mishra, the NDTV bureau chief in Mumbai, being specifically directed to disrupt the press conference by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on the Adani affair, and "change the narrative".

Asked by a reporter why the Opposition was insulting the anchors, INDIA spokesperson Supriya Shrinate replied that there are still journalists and anchors who she respects. But those who "lack spine and cannot ask hard questions and speak truth to power" did not deserve her respect.

The fraught relationship between Opposition spokespersons and several news anchors has touched a new low in recent years, with the Opposition complaining that news channels were crowding debates and panel discussions with pro-government PR professionals, corporate executives, and academics masquerading as political analysts. They routinely drowned the voice of the Opposition, they pointed out.

Not everyone in the media is happy with the new decision. “Disappointing that the opposition is spending its time grading anchors and journalists. The principle worth fighting for is more transparency and access for the media from those in power, not less,” posted Suhasini Haider of The Hindu.

Pankaj Pachauri, former media advisor to former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, reacted by saying, “This is a sad day for the media in India. It is the failure of the media owners who got into a business knowing that trust is the main currency here. That trust of objectivity, even-handedness and freedom of expression is broken irreparably”.

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