Rasheeda Bhagat

Indian media stoops to a new low

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on March 04, 2019

On high alert   -  RV Moorthy

The war cries resonating from the newsrooms of TV channels reveal the new depths electronic media are plumbing

Indian media, particularly television news channels, has sunk to a new low after the Pulwama terror attack. Within a couple of hours of the horrific attack, in which more than 40 CRFP jawans lost their lives, TV anchors were screaming how “Pakistan has to be taught a lesson”, with the decibel levels going up by the hour. Obviously the other channels’ anchors were screaming louder and this one had to catch up.

I have stopped watching TV news channels as you get little news, much less sensible opinion or analysis. But I turned to TV news after the Pulwama attack to catch up on the developing story, especially after news of an imminent Indian military strike started doing the rounds. Soon news broke of an Indian Air Force pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, after shooting down a Pakistani F16, ejecting from his MiG-21 “Bison” fighter jet, which was also destroyed, and gliding into Pakistani territory. We watched with admiration the pilot’s calm composure, courage and dignity, as he answered his captor’s questions on a video released by Pakistan.

As India erupted into a prayer on his safe return, our TV warriors became more belligerent.

Even before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told his Parliament that they would release the Indian pilot as a “gesture of peace”, an anchor on one of our premier channels screeched, “Imran Khan, you bloody well return our pilot, and do it with an apology”.

Restraint, did you say?

The electronic media’s jingoism reached such a dizzy high that one feared Pakistan would cite this as an excuse to make an about turn. This sentiment was conveyed by Anand Mahindra, who replied to a triumphant post from Republic TV on how “giving in to pressure”, Pakistan was releasing our pilot. Tweeted Mahindra, “I rarely comment on media postures. But the prime objective now is to allow our soldier to come home safely. This is not the time to jeopardise that event with such calls for celebration…Arnab, please we must exercise restraint…”

‘Tell it to the wolves’, our media might as well have said. The calls for taking Pakistan off the face of the globe, blowing it into smithereens, etc, continued unabated.

As Imran Khan kept repeating that he had indeed tried to talk to our Prime Minister Narendra Modi (this time the honorofics Mr or Sahib or Modiji, were conspicuous by their absence) in order to “deescalate”, more than one TV anchor shouted in glee about how the power of New India was making Imran Khan beg for a dialogue.

Death to the enemy

All journalistic norms that distinguish between news and views/opinion were thrown to the winds and war cries and high decibel screeching on our channels continued with the anchors trying to be more “nationalistic” than the other. Anyone who welcomed Imran Khan’s “statesman-like gesture” and talked about the need to resolve the Kashmir issue, was trolled on social media for being a traitor, ‘Paki-lover’, and worse.

As the chest thumping and drums of war resonated in our news rooms, media personality and film producer Pritish Nandy neatly summed up the scenario in a tweet: “I am a little confused as to who is fighting the war against Pakistan. The brave Indian army or the shrieking TV journalists out to show their fake nationalism?”

Those spoiling for a war need to hear, and digest, what Vijeta Mandavgane, wife of Squadron Leader Ninad Mandavgane, one of the six Air Force officers killed in an IAF helicopter crash in Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, said at the funeral of her husband.

The remarkably composed Vijeta had this message for keyboard warriors: “I ask Facebook warriors to stop conducting war on Facebook and (other) social media. Nothing will come of this. If you have so much josh, join the armed forces, or ask your family members to do so and then face the reality. We do not want war; you have no idea about the destruction a war brings…no other Ninad should go, from either side.”

It cannot be said better than this.

Published on March 04, 2019

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