MEDIA WATCH

Why CNN-IBN's Sagarika Ghose may no longer criticise Modi

Ghose, as well as her colleague in Network 18, Nikhil Wagle, are the most recent examples of journalists who appear to be under pressure from the management because of their independent views about Narendra Modi.

Sagarika Ghose, deputy editor of CNN-IBN who anchors the prime time Face the Nation programme, received instructions from the management of Network 18, which owns the news channel, not to post disparaging tweets about Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate, highly placed sources at the media and entertainment company told Scroll.in.

Ghose has been posting a series of tweets this month not only about Gujarat's BJP chief minister but, ironically, also about the increasing threat to independent journalism.

"There's a disturbing new trend in the Indian media of measuring objectivity and bias," she told Scroll.in, even though she declined to comment about whether she had received any instructions from the management. "Journalists who believe the politician is their natural adversary and systematically question all politicians are seen as biased, but those who attack only certain politicians and sing hosannas to another politician are seen as objective."

She said she was angry that Modi's supporters were making it increasingly difficult for journalists to criticise the Bhartiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate on the internet, particularly on Twitter. Moreover, the climate of intolerance towards Modi's critics is spreading beyond the internet, she said.

On February 1, in response to an interview with Narendra Modi's wife, Jashodaben, 62, a retired school teacher, that the Indian Express had published that morning, Ghose tweeted, "Poignant interview in IE of Jashodhaben, married to @narendramodi at 17. So many women married off at young age, time to restore their dignity."

Then on February 6, Ghose posted a series of tweets about the threat to independent journalists.


Original tweet here.


Original tweet here.


Original tweet here.


Original tweet here.

Sagarika Ghose is not the only senior journalist who might be in a spot of trouble for expressing her views. Nikhil Wagle, editor of IBN Lokmat, Network 18's Marathi channel, known on Twitter to be a critic of Modi , is also under pressure from the management, sources said.

He also posted a series of tweets on February 6:


Original tweet here.


Original tweet here.


Original tweet here.

The Caravan, a highly reputable monthly magazine, published a detailed cover story in December on Network 18, in which it alleged that the organisation had taken a turn to the right.

Network 18 is not the only media company that is perceived to be placating Modi and his supporters, even before the general election has taken place. Siddharth Varadarajan, a highly respected, award-winning journalist, was negotiating with India Today magazine after resigning as editor of The Hindu in October. But the talks fell through because sources said that he had made it clear he wanted full editorial freedom, including the freedom to be critical of Modi when warranted. Varadarajan confirmed to Scroll.in that he had been in talks with India Today but declined to say what had transpired.

But on February 6, in response to Ghose's tweets, Varadarajan tweeted:



Further, Hartosh Singh Bal was fired as political editor of Open magazine in November without being offered a reason. But in an interview to The Hoot, a media criticism website, the weekly magazine's editor, Manu Joseph, indicated what the reason was.

Joseph revealed that the magazine's proprietor, Sanjiv Goenka, had told Joseph that he was "making a lot of...political enemies" because of Bal's writings and utterances on TV news channels. When the magazine's management decided to appoint PR Ramesh as the new political editor, Joseph also resigned, to be replaced by S Prasannarajan.

In an article, Bal wrote that Ramesh was considered close to BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, who is regarded by some as the BJP's "bureau chief" because of his influence over the media. Ironically, one of the last stories commissioned by Bal before his exit was about the Modi campaign's increasing hold on the media.

Intolerance towards independent-minded journalists is not limited to the Delhi-centric national media. Thiru Veerapandian reportedly lost his prime time show on Sun TV for merely saying that people should think before voting for Narendra Modi.

In Gujarat, chief Minister Narendra Modi's regime has also gone after journalists, filing cases under a sedition law that the Supreme Court has ruled should be used only in cases of violent rebellion against the state. In 2006, Manoj Shinde, editor of a Gujarat paper, was charged with sedition for merely criticising the Modi government's tardy flood relief efforts. In 2008, The Times of India's Ahmedabad editor, Bharat Desai, and a photographer for the Gujarat Samachar newspaper were charged with sedition for exposing corruption in the police.

After Vidya Subrahmaniam, a senior journalist at The Hindu, wrote an op-ed about Sardar Patel in October 2013 that appeared to have irked Modi's supporters, she received so many threat calls and intimidating messages that she filed a police complaint.

After The Caravan magazine published its February cover story on Swami Aseemanand in which he accused the RSS of sanctioning terrorism, the magazine received threatening calls, its executive editor, Vinod Jose, tweeted.  "I cannot imagine any other media house in today's environment, where I could have published this story," Jose said.

Modi's supporters on the internet defend their attacks on journalists by saying that the liberal media has been biased against Modi and the BJP and charitable to the Congress. Even if this untenable accusation were true, blanking out criticism of the BJP and Modi is hardly the solution.

"I have been trenchantly critical of the Congress and the Gandhis, but no one has threatened me with death, gang-rape or sacking," said Sagarika Ghose, referring to the online abuse she receives daily.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Meet four companies using crowd-sourcing to put you at the center of their businesses

Allowing users “behind the curtain” is paying off in big ways for these organizations.

The web has connected companies and consumers like never before. Whether through websites, social media or messaging apps, an exciting two-way dialogue has emerged. A few select companies have realized how to harness these linkages for more than just likes, shares and fancy Instagram snaps. Rather, they see true value in bringing their customers “behind the curtain” and crowd-sourcing their input on current and new products. For the companies listed below, this shift towards greater transparency and accountability is translating into much greater customer satisfaction.

Facebook’s “Bug Bounty” program. No web-based service gets it right the first time, not even Facebook. That’s why they established the “Bug Bounty” program in 2011. This clever program incentivizes users to find and report bugs in existing features, and often allows top developers access to exclusive new features before they go live. The reward can be as high as $15,000 per glitch, with the bounty varying depending on the level of risk a bug poses. Facebook has made more than $4 million in payouts to more than 800 researchers since the program began, which shows the inordinate value they place on user partnership.

Google Maps “Local Guides” program. Ever wonder how Google Maps tends to be so spot on? Meet their “Local Guides” program, which rewards active users who rectify and add new pins to keep the maps as up to date and accurate as possible. The rewards are distributed in a “level system” whereby people who make small contributions are entered into giveaways or given special access to new Google features. More significant contributions come with greater rewards, too: a level 4 user, for example, is granted 1TB of Google Drive space for 2 years.

Wikipedia. Knowledge is for everyone, and the democratization of knowledge is the fundamental principle that led Jimmy Wales to start Wikipedia. The internet encyclopedia project is free of charge and allows users to copy and change it as long as they follow certain guidelines. The project has been alive since 2001, and is available today in 275 active language editions with 41,000,000 total registered users. The user community actively edits and adds information, and the encyclopedia is always in a constant state of update and improvement.

Airtel. Another initiative that is pioneering new standards for transparency and accountability is Airtel’s Open Network initiative. Through this move, Airtel wants to create a seamless mobile experience for customers by partnering with them to improve its network. The Open Network website allows users to track coverage and signal strength across the country in real-time and provides a direct channel for communicating leaks in service. Customers can see where Airtel’s current network towers are and even the ones the company plans to build in the future. It even lets customers offer up space for placing new towers in areas they are planned or were forcibly shut down.

This will help Airtel learn which spots need better connectivity and enable it to improve the network in those areas. With this hyperlocal knowledge and insight of customers, Airtel intends to build a seamless network that will cater to populations that may not have received the full benefit of its network until now.

By working closely with their customers, Airtel is readying itself for dramatic improvements in service and massive leaps in customer satisfaction. To check out Airtel coverage in your area, see here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.

×

PrevNext