If the fourth estate and the government keep a healthy gap, IT is better that as members of the media come too close to the power corridors, objective news fails and the narrative of those in government will triumph over the facts.
A case in point is the latest fiasco surrounding ultra-hawkish Indian anchor Arnab Goswami. Mr. Goswami was accused of having prior knowledge of the Indian attack on Balakot in February 2019, and was not really known for subtlety, honesty and consistency in reporting. The controversy emerged after supposed WhatsApp messages were made public between the anchor and the head of an under-investigation ratings firm.
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Mr. Goswami seems to tell the other party in the messages that “something significant” will happen vis-à-vis Pakistan, moving on to suggest a “bigger than normal strike.” Of course, the strike took place, and this nation offered India a suitable response to its adventurism. The leak, however, reveals the dangerous nexus between right-wing Indian media outlets and the Hindu chauvinist BJP, which governs New Delhi.
Though ’embedded’ journalism is not fresh and some media houses in this nation are still seen as similar to those who call the shots, a much more dangerous fact is exposed by the recent controversy in India. Critical information was exchanged with a news agency in the Goswami situation, evidently to assist the election chances of the BJP and raise the ratings of the rightist media outlet in the process.
This is a risky game and can have many negative effects if not nipped in the bud. Of course, the first victim in such cases is the reality, while media outlets such as the one in the middle of the controversy end up radicalising the public with their jingoistic non-stop broadcasts.
In the maddening scramble for ratings, leverage, and control, common sense, factual reporting and ethics are all chucked out the window. Such an unholy nexus between dominant media outlets and the administration, instead of fostering peace, just helps to intensify the shrill calls for war in a troubled region. This unhealthy pattern must be resolved by healthier media channels and moderate political elements in India before brinkmanship, fueled by a pliant, cheerleading media, leads to a possible tragedy in South Asia. Thanks largely to Pakistan’s firm, mature response, war was averted last time. Those shenanigans, however, could not actually be tried again for a few ratings points and votes on election day.