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Saturday, December 2, 2023

A few questions to Sanjaya Baru on his categorization of Lutyens’ media

In his book “India’s Power Elite”, Sanjaya Baru writes: “I had categorised Delhi’s media into four groups: (a) the pure professional (b) pro-government (c) pro-opposition and (d) the corrupt.”

First, I would say that a vast majority of the media SHOULD be in the first group.  As individuals they can have their own bias and preference.  But as professionals, it is expected that the individual seeks the proper data and makes correct analysis.  Those in the second two groups would belong to a mouthpiece of a political party, or a publication where the owners and the journalist team have taken an avowed ideological stance.  Such people should clearly state their ideological positions, so that the reader/viewer knows the bias, and evaluates the information accordingly.  It is not that they cannot be thoroughly professional in their writings and presentations.  However, it is for the reader to make the evaluation.

As far as the fourth group is concerned, it is amazing that Baru seems to think that it is ok that such type of media actually exists. I know it does, but for Baru to openly acknowledge that it exists is astonishing.  If Baru is truly a professional, he should have called out such journalists and publications a long time ago, so that he is not tainted by association.  A polemical point, but needs to be made.

Second, Baru should give names of people in at least the middle two groups.  In his book, he has specifically mentioned Arnab Goswami and TimesNow as being ‘pro’ the present government.  Does he mean that the others are in one of the other three categories? It would, therefore, be very interesting to know from Baru the names of the journalists and the publications that would fit in each of his categories.

Baru then goes on to say: “For his own reasons, Modi and his media strategists not only chose not to seek the support of (a), (c) and (d), but sought to convert as many journalists as they could to join category (b).”  Another polemical point: if Modi were to seek the support of these three categories, then does that not mean he is seeking journalists to join category (b)?

On a serious note, I do not know if there is evidence to indicate how many media professionals has Modi actually converted to move away from the other three categories to be now pro the present government.  Especially, the names of the corrupt media.  Baru can enlighten us.

It is pertinent to note that in 1992, the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Sunderlal Patwa, had always asserted that it is not an absolutely necessity for the press and government to have cordial relations.  (The Times of India, May 1992.)  However, Baru does not agree.  Instead, Baru thinks that the media, particularly the English media, is an important component of the supposed power elite in Bharat.  And he thinks that this type of power elite should be engaged by the government to give effective governance.  It is in this context that the issues raised in this note should be addressed by him.

In a democracy, the media is an important link between the people and the elected government.  There has to be a two-way communication, and the media should do a truthful job in this communication.  Once the people in the media start to think that THEY are a power elite, functioning of democracy is truly compromised.

The late Dileep Padgaonkar, then a senior journalist, once said that as the editor of The Times of India, the leading English daily in Bharat, he had the second most important job in the nation, next to the Prime Minister.  However, the PM is an elected person, being in position at the wish of the people.  An editor is at the mercy of the owners of the publication, and hence not accountable to the people at large.

Informed discussions will take place in any country when the media does not consider itself as a power broker, but one that is an honest professional.

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Ashok Chowgule
Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.


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