In an article on December 16 ("Stop calling us Presstitutes: A message to my friends and other Modi supporters"), Rahul Pandita argued against the perception of an impartial media. He wrote that it is the duty of a writer, journalist, artist to question the powers-that-be. Not doing so, he contended, would be a disservice to the profession. Here is one response to his piece.

Dear Rahul Pandita,

Let me begin with a few admissions.

I will not quote Albert Camus to support what I am going to say; lest you dismiss it as an example of “virtue signalling”, the way you mock your friends who help their wives clean up after dinner. Besides, I believe that those of us who are not Yale World Fellows simply do not have any business quoting Nobel Laureates without knowing the fine art of doing so out of context.

Let me also say that I do not follow you on Twitter, and I couldn't care less about what you actually do (your bio does not specify if you are a journalist, writer or artist. You may well be all three, but let us not go there).

I am writing this because I am very impressed by your ability to make a threat look like a plea, even while you almost admit the truth in the very accusation you seek to argue against. Your patronising tone is the stuff textbooks are made of. I also love the “Five links on every Modi supporter's Facebook wall” bit, because you know very well that your condescension and prejudice will be welcomed by those you seek to defend, without ever having to bother about the inconvenience of facts.

You ask your (erstwhile?) friends to stop calling you and your fraternity “Presstitutes”, because as a writer or a journalist (sometimes, there is no difference between the two), you can be far more creative in coining terms. Perhaps you do not realise, but the profession you are batting for used to once pride itself on presenting facts and perspective, and not its proficiency in creative coinage.

The term commonly used for that is advertising, where one is paid to sell a product, service or idea. Of course, you are not admitting that a lot of creative thinking has gone into “looking into the hold and writing about the sweat and the blood and the flesh that the oars extract”. But to us unwashed masses who order computers from vendors with orange-ticked Twitter display picture, it is a pretty telling comment. We are like this only.

I use the term “we” because although I am not fortunate enough to be among your friends, I do certainly fall under the category of “other Modi supporters”.

Drawing from the past

On the subject of journalism, allow me to borrow from your fraternity's style and quote instances from two decades ago.

I worked as a cub reporter in CR Irani’s newspaper, The Statesman, while I was still in my teens. Till date, I am fascinated by the dogged fearlessness with which he pursued the Bofors case, continuously providing evidence in his weekly “Caveat”, long after the case had ceased to matter in public perception.

It did not matter to Irani whether it was the flavour of the season, or whether his columns were helping the circulation of his paper. He did what he considered to be his bounden duty, right until the day he died. He did not need to occupy airtime every night (because he was never invited to studios though many were thriving by then), nor did he have to seek validation from others of his ilk. He just said and did what he felt was right. And till date, I have not heard anyone accusing him of malice or ill-will towards the Congress or the Gandhi family (Which is not to say that he may not have had preferences or favourites, or that the Congress may have found in him a difficult adversary. It simply means that his own tribe never accused him in this regard.).

There are others like Irani, even today, though they are few and far between. Take a senior journalist who never got due credit for busting Bofors, for example. Or another feisty lady who uncovered some of the most creatively executed financial scams in this country. Have you ever wondered why these people are never called by the term that causes so much indignation in your heart and mind?

Mind you, they too are unsparing in their criticism of the current prime minister of India, but perhaps they have not aligned themselves enough with your standard operating procedure for a place in the pantheon of celebrated independent journalists who deserve the prized moniker of “presstitute”.

A few examples might help.

Take this tweet by your dear friend, who felt (we assume, since not being specific is your perennial alibi), on the awarding of the Ramnath Goenka Award of Journalism (which we are assuming is an independent award) to a fellow journalist. True, this fellow, the so-called journalist, made the mistake of seeing things differently from you, but does giving him an award tarnish the great profession of journalism itself?

Hints of hypocrisy

Moving on, here's another example of how your ilk accurately represents the prevailing mood among citizens. On Wednesday, ABP News’ Twitter handle ran a poll on whether the Modi government was targeting Arvind Kejriwal. In his show, this fiercely neutral journalist reported the results of the poll.  The sample size was nearly 10,000 votes (a tad higher than some statewide exit polls), and the results on Twitter were only marginally different (Twitter: No – 79%, TV Show: Yes - 52%).

Of course, it is possible that this is a natural translation effect, after allowing for sampling errors and smoothing over the skews, but this could have, at least, been clarified. No? Not even for those of us who buy the Patanjali Kesh Kranti oil so liberally advertised on such channels, which I am assuming pays for a part of your compensation?

We may be wannabe liberals who say the right things about gay rights. But, we are not flaky about something as serious as intolerance. While on that specific subject, I would also venture to offer a piece of unsolicited advice. Please choose your friends and fraternity carefully. A few weeks ago, you were liberally defending Shahrukh Khan and using his utterances as proof that India is unbearably intolerant. Here, the same artist mocks some of you for twisting his words to suit their line of thinking. Of course, this has nothing to do with the impending release of his film like he repeatedly reminds us, but do help us decide whom to believe in this case. Are we allowed to surmise that Shah Rukh Khan is calling some of you “presstitutes”?

True, some of us are quacks (lousy medical practitioners in your exalted vocabulary). We are also people who make the mistake of wanting greatness for our country, unlike you, when you say, "I don’t want any greatness for it." (Here, I have only quoted that portion which suits my argument, to let you know just how much I appreciate this ability of your fraternity). But pray tell us if it is right for you to be so dismissive of our views, of being so intolerant of our opinion, and relegating everything we say to the dustbin of troll-trash. Are words such as “looking inward” and “introspection” reserved only for Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party and his supporters?

Half the story

You say journalism is not about singing paeans to a particular man or government. How silly of us to believe otherwise. After all, the investigative reporting of the National Herald case by multiple channels, and the criticism of Arvind Kejriwal for using abusive language for the prime minister is out there for all of us to see. Why, you even interviewed Subramanian Swamy, without once insinuating that it was he who was accused of wrongdoing, and not the Gandhis. I have witnessed how journalists fight every battle with reason, and never lose their composure when confronted for being “liberal” with facts. Most importantly, you are not one of those who uses the argument, "see, all sides are abusing me", as irrefutable proof of your absolute objectivity and lack of bias.

I know you do not give much credence to the fact that while senior journalists like you do the important job of mocking the prime minister for his clothes, and keep a count of the miles he is clocking in air travel, we, on the other hand end up criticising him for petty matters such as the flip-flop on cricket with Pakistan, shortfall in disinvestment targets and so on. What do we know?

You will rightly think of me as stupid to believe reports that say that India's Ease of Doing Business rankings have significantly improved. Or that our Index of Industrial Production is growing at rates not seen in a decade. There is even data establishing that the number of communal incidents in the country is much lower under this government. True, those are not as relevant as the ability to build a perception and seed the cocktail and lecture circuits, but we have no option but to make do with facts as our source of sustenance.

I could go on and on, but if you have read thus far, and still not got the point, chances are you never will or do not want to. I am hoping otherwise, given my nature as an optimist, and a believer in the power of change.

You have two choices now: be a man and make your peace with “Presstitutes” or introspect, reflect and opt for course correction.

Because if you don't, there is a good chance that the word “press” itself will become a synonym for shameless selling out. Your collective creativity may not be enough to stop that from happening.

Arvind Agrawal is a citizen who today cannot put himself in the service of those who practice journalism. He is trying to be at the service of those who suffer it. His Twitter handle is @factorator.