Bottom Line: While name calling or abusing journalists for being objective or critical must be condemned, journalists also need to check their own conduct as to why are they losing their relevance and credibility in public perception.
Rahul Gandhi calling Prime Minister Narender Modi’s interview by ANI journalist Smita Prakash pliable has yet again raked up the debate about politicians shooting the messenger if the message is not of their choice. The criticism is today being debated & criticized by the journalists and media associations.
However, before we the journalists assume that we have in our collective consciousness the moral right to criticize Rahul Gandhi, we have more questions to ask ourselves and introspect. To what extent have we kept the ethical tradition of our profession alive? Isn’t it the time we check our own conduct as journalists? Will criticizing and calling names to Rahul Gandhi restore the professional dignity that we have lost long ago.
Today, the way journalistic interviews are being conducted and debates in the television studio orchestrated, one doesn’t need a media analyst to point out all is not well within our own profession. Even a rickshaw puller can tell you which journalist is working for which political party.
Often one television news channel debate openly criticizes the rival channel, with remarks like we are not like this channel or that channel. Isn’t that much bigger shame for us than being criticized by a political leader?
On the given interview being labelled as pliable, howsoever one may otherwise hate Rahul Gandhi for the given comment one has to accept the basic journalistic fact that any interview without the supplementary cross questioning and touching upon the grey zones and lapses on part of the interviewee is vulgar display of journalistic impropriety.
But wait! It is not just about the courage, or rather lack of it, on part of the journalists to ask uncomfortable questions to the powers that be in general and the Prime Minister in particular. The malaise within the profession is much deeper.
The events leading to the General Elections of 2014 has killed whatever editorial shame was left with the journalists, forget any editorial sanctity or professional pride. A new wave of journalism was unveiled that could be at best called Supari Journalism (Contract Killer Journalism). And it is here that Rahul Gandhi’s outburst could be seen in its logical perspective, instead of acting holier-than-thou on behalf of journalistic fraternity.
When Rahul Gandhi called Smita Prakash pliable journalist, it was not just an outburst against one given interview but the kind of reporting, or rather supari journalism, that the Congress party in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular has been weathering since 2014 General Elections.
When a journalist violates all journalistic ethics and professional norms to become cheer leader of one political party having the backing of corporate India controlling the media, then Rahul Gandhi was probably too mild in his reaction to call one-sided interview as pliable.
It is hence no surprise that while Rahul Gandhi is being criticized by the media associations, he too has very many supporting voices on twitter, with public perception not as harsh against him as it should have been. Journalists nowadays are no less hated than the politicians. Do we have the courage to admit the fact that journalistic credibility is at its nadir in public perception?
It is indeed interesting to note that when the corporate-backed media violates all journalistic norms and ethics, then the associations like Press Council of India and Editors Guild of India are silent. Is it because everyone wants a job or are more comfortable with the powers that be? Is it because for the journalists it is easy to target the one who is not in power? Is it because the ruling party has more advertising clout? If that is the case, then please don’t talk about any journalistic respect being violated by Rahul Gandhi.
It is not that I don’t carry home the feeling that Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Smita Prakash interview is uncalled for but then I have even bigger objection for the selective conscience of my fellow journalistic fraternity. While the statement issued by the Editors Guild of India criticizes Rahul Gandhi, the same letter chickens out to name Prime Minister Narendra Modi, General VK Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, or Somnath Bharti for calling filthy names like Presstitute, Bazaaru, News Trader and Dalaal. Somnath Bharti of AAP has gone to the extent of calling a lady journalist as prostitute.
Have we all sold our collective conscience to the ruling dispensation that is backed by the corporate India controlling institutional media? It is high time journalists check their own conduct before selectively crying for journalistic respect and dignity. Are we ready to boycott the rotten eggs whose supari journalism is earning the collective shame for the profession? Do we have the courage to stand with all upright journalists and media houses when there is government crackdown for not toeing their dictated lines?
There are more questions for we the journalists than Rahul Gandhi. Unfortunately, it is convenient to cry foul than checking one’s own conduct. Even at the risk of being labelled as a ‘Congress journalist’ I would reiterate that selective conscience would do no good for our journalistic pride. We the journalists are equally responsible, if not more, for turning Fourth Pillar of Democracy from Pillar to Pedestal of Propaganda, Throttling all Conscience, bringing Profession to Point of Irrelevance, and Lending Credence to Fifth Pillar in Social Media.