West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has openly asked Bengali news media outlets to favor her regime, and offered them taxpayer-funded government ads if they further the ruling dispensation’s agenda in the state.
A video that is being widely shared on social media, shows the TMC supremo giving directions to a woman reporter on how she, or other local media, should report “positive news” about her governent if they want government advertisements. In short, fall in line with the party’s propaganda and get rewarded in exchange for this service.
Here is a Bengali news report of the interaction between the WB CM and the reporter-
It was during a meeting held in November which Mamata Banerjee was presiding over, that a local reporter Shukla Ganguly lamented about the struggles small cash-strapped media houses have to put up with, highlighting the lack of advertisement revenue. “We have been running our newspaper for 11 years now. Small-time media houses, including ours, that are involved in journalism are struggling through poor economic conditions. We do not get advertisements. I am repeatedly requesting to you, kindly look at us,” Ganguly pleaded.
While the media is looked upon as the fourth pillar of democracy, the West Bengal CM wants to tame it and use it as her mouthpiece. After listening to Shukla Ganguly’s plight, Mamata Banerjee declared, “I will direct the District Magistrate (DM) to give the advertisements to those rural magazines (gramin patrika), that will cover the government’s development works positively…because.. the government does not always use its own machinery for publicity.”
She added, “So many inaugurations happened today…. big news channels will broadcast these only once and leave it, but the rural newspapers should cover these in detail and cascade this information to every village. We will take care of whichever paper presents the good works of the government in rural areas. Send a copy of your edition to the DM, DICO, Police Superintendent and Commissioner. They will review and confirm if the magazine is writing positively or negatively about the government. You can easily make negative news into positive, but in Bengal we observe, they only highlight negative things. Newspapers that are publishing more positive content about the work of the government will certainly get the advertisement.”
The West Bengal Chief Minister’s message is clear. Mamata Banerjee will reward newspapers and media agencies with advertisement revenue in exchange for positive reviews of her government’s ‘development work’.
If necessary, media houses should spin negative news to make them sound positive and mislead their readers, according to Banerjee’s directions. A state head is encouraging the media to adopt dishonest measures if necessary and in return, she will provide them ad revenues using taxpayer’s money. In a state that is struggling with soaring unemployment, a taxpayer’s money is being used for the ruling party’s propaganda and an average resident is denied his right to know the reality of the state.
Further, top government officials like the DM, SP and DICO will read through these newspapers to assess if they have adulated the TMC matriarch enough, and on that basis advertisements will be allocated. These officials, holding key positions are also being paid from the taxes paid by the people of the state. With crime rates going up every day, news of rapes and murders being reported from all corners of the state, the Superintendent of Police and office of District Magistrate will put their work hours into reading and analysing if random newspapers are praising the state government adequately.
This is a parody of democracy being played in full public view and still, no actions are being taken against a sitting CM luring the media with financial doles. On the contrary, she is being hailed as the flagbearer of democracy, and is being built up by a section of the Lutyens’ mafia as the challenger to PM Modi in the 2024 LS election.