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Above: Subramanian Swamy/Photo: UNI

Irrepressible Swamy

You may or may not agree with him, but there’s one thing you can’t grudge BJP’s Subramanian Swamy. He speaks his mind even at the risk of embarrassing his party.

At a recent event in Mumbai, Swamy was rather matter-of-fact when asked whether the media is unfair towards his party and its leadership.

Many would have expected Swamy to take the usual line adopted by his party colleagues and fans when faced with a similar question—dubbing Modi and BJP critics “presstitutes”, “bazaar” or worse. The garrulous Swamy, however, hurled a googly and his reply undoubtedly would have been music to the ears of Modi critics who have for long been saying exactly the same thing.

Media mei hamare chamche bhi bahut hain (We have a lot of sycophants in the media). I can take their names but it won’t look nice. There are two TV stations on which whatever we want, we can have aired. So, I don’t believe that the media is against us,” Swamy said. Free press? Need we say more?

Misplaced Hope

That Times Now and Republic TV spend much of their air time slamming the Congress party and its first family while singing paeans to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP is widely acknowledged. Celebrity editors of the channels, Navika Kumar and Arnab Goswami, who once formed the Congress-bashing pair at Times Now, have often made news themselves for their unambiguously biased reportage against the Nehru-Gandhi family.

With the Lok Sabha polls due in two months and every news channel scrambling for exclusive interviews with leaders of key political parties, Navika doesn’t want to lose out. While a chance to interview Narendra Modi is known to be given to a select group, and Navika certainly belongs to this clique, the present rush among media organisations seems to be for an exclusive tête-à-tête with Congress President Rahul Gandhi, or better still, his sister and newly-appointed Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Last week, at a lunch hosted by a Congress leader for a select group of journalists who cover the party, Navika was seen pleading with party veteran Ahmed Patel to help her get an interview with Rahul.

When Patel pointed out that her hope was misplaced owing to her and Times Now’s clear anti-Congress stance, Navika desperately tried to argue to the contrary, going to the extent of claiming that the editorial stance was owing to an editor who is no longer with the channel (read: Arnab). Patel listed a slew of recent instances when Navika went on a rant against the Congress and Rahul before telling

Vile Attacks

Hate mongers have struck again with the tacit support of the BJP and its right-wing Sangh fraternity, making their earlier transgressions appear pale in comparison. In the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack, it was expected that the BJP’s cyber warriors and trolls would revive their war-mongering  “khoon ka badla khoon” rhetoric against Pakistan, India’s Muslims in general and the Kashmiri people in particular. But they kept their most vicious attacks reserved for journalists they love to hate and dub “anti-national presstitutes”—Barkha Dutt, Abhisar Sharma, Ravish Kumar, to name a few.

Dutt clearly faced the worst of this onslaught with hundreds of faceless trolls calling and abusing her round-the-clock or flooding her WhatsApp inbox with vile messages, rape threats and images of male genitals.

Dutt’s contact number was also added to a social network of “call girls”. Dutt took to Twitter to out each of these trolls, making their numbers public along with screenshots of the unspeakable filth flung at her.

Ravish Kumar and Abhisar Sharma have also been flooded with abusive calls, death threats and threats of raping their family members.

While Delhi police’s DCP, Madhur Verma assured Dutt on Twitter of investigating the matter and National Commission for Women’s chairperson Rekha Sharma has written to the Delhi police seeking a probe, Punjab Chief M Amarinder Singh forwarded the numbers shared by Dutt to Punjab police’s cyber cell directing an investigation into any numbers registered in or operating from the state.

Not surprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, all serial Twitter users, have maintained a studied silence on this appalling and continuing tsunami of hate.

Unacceptable Conduct

Television news reporters desperately trying to elbow each other out in their bid to get exclusive sound bites from politicians, bureaucrats and celebrities while reporting on stories is a sad reality of 24×7 broadcast media. Yet, there is something intrinsically wrong with supposedly seasoned scribes doing so, especially to young, lady journalists.

At the recently-concluded Aero India show in Bengaluru, Srinjoy Chowdhury, national affairs editor with Times Now, was in such a tearing hurry to get an exclusive sound bite from French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler, that he violently pushed aside a young reporter, Nischita Verrendra, of WION news channel. A video of the incident soon went viral. The video shows Verrendra interviewing Ziegler when Chowdhury barges into the frame and begins to push her aside, almost tripping himself. Ziegler and his security detail are also seen asking Chowdhury to wait for his turn.

Later in the day, Chowdhury took to Twitter to say: “Unconditional apologies to Wion reporter for what happened this morning. Deeply regret a moment of unacceptable conduct. Begging forgiveness.” But the apology clearly left Verrendra unimpressed. She replied with an even more shocking narration of what allegedly followed the altercation that was caught on-camera. “It’s hard to believe this apology since you told me and I quote ‘Yes, I don’t have decency on field’ and ‘you are not worth being manhandled’. So let’s just accept that we have an indecent reporter amidst us,” Verrendra tweeted.

Many on Twitter wondered if Chowdhury was issuing an apology only because his act was recorded and circulated widely on social media.

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