Thursday, August 30, 2007

JOURNALISTS OR POLITICAL PROSTITUTES?

I had written this article in June in response to what I read in the Hindustan Times and what I saw on India's national TV news channels. I am posting it here in tandem with the article http://vinodksharma.blogspot.com/2007/08/sanghvi-journalist-on-hidden-payroll.html to highlight how some Indian journalists have descended to the lowest possible depths of integrity.

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In the build up to the Presidential election, the views expressed, on TV and in print, by a couple of media luminaries, the power journalists who have manifestly manipulated their way to the top in their profession, has raised some extremely uncomfortable questions about the integrity of these gentlemen. Are they really journalists who, as professionals are expected, at the very least, to present an unbiased analysis, even if it is superficial and steeped in mediocrity?

Vir Sanghvi's column 'Kalam's Final Misstep' in the HT, 24 June 2007, was a shocker, betraying his casual research (as always) and his pathetically sycophantic political loyalties. He was so intent on maligning President Kalam that he could find almost nothing right with him as a person, besides completely distorting his profile.

Sanghvi writes that when Kalam became President,all Sanghvi knew about him was that he was a low-profile defence scientist! For a senior journalist to pretend that he had no idea that Kalam was then already a recipient then of Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and, yes, Bharat Ratna, simply gives his motivation away. Further, he says that Kalam may not be a politician himself but has spent his life around politicians! What a white, shame-faced lie! It is not possible that Vir Sanghvi does not have the entire chronological bio-data of Kalam. Yet in pursuit of his one-point agenda he distorts facts blatantly. Similarly, he takes a not so concealed dig at Kalam’s ’fondness for little children’ and derides his ‘brahmacharya’ He finds nothing right in his record as a President too, except the way ‘the middle class regards this President’, as if that too is a matter meriting criticism of the man.

All this is a clever build up to ‘educating’ the readers that Kalam is also greedy and ambitious, for agreeing to be President again. The overwhelmingly large number of letters, texts and emails from ordinary citizens wanting him to be the President again are dismissed by Sanghvi as being from his ‘Rotary/Lions Club Constituency’.

This is not the first instance of Sanghvi betraying his extreme political attachment, deviously concealed behind his journalistic cloak. I particularly recall the article he had written about the ‘Manmohan Sonia Core Unit’, HT, 10 Sep 2006, http://hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=dfd3091a-b3e1-41ec-8a4b-85fdd0df0baf. That would perhaps rival his article on Kalam as the cheapest ‘paid’ article written by any politically unaffiliated journalist. There, instead of decimating someone, Sanghvi so unashamedly licked Sonia Gandhi that even Giani Zail Singh would have squirmed in the heavens.

On NDTV 24/7, Vinod Mehta betrayed almost identical political ‘compulsions’, criticisng Kalam and defending Pratibha Patil’s choice as ‘inspired’. Subsequently, when serious muck on her began to surface, he continued to defend her, telling Karan Thapar instead on CNBC TV18 that the allegations had no meaning and that he had information that the Congress had unearthed similar muck against Shekhawat also which would be revealed in a day or two, squaring the matter! To Mehta’s credit, at least he was a little more intelligent than Sanghvi in camouflaging his agenda and absence of integrity.Karan Thapar, as ever, glowed as an absolutely incorruptible, intelligent and incisive journalist, without a peer. That, perhaps has to something to do with his apolitical upbringing where compromising values for petty and immediate personal gain was not an option.

CNN IBN is, perhaps, the only channel that is giving adequate and unbiased coverage to the Pratibha scandal, as it unfolds more and more devastatingly each day. NDTV is trying hard to continue to keep the Congress party in good humour. I recall the exit poll results after the first phase of polling in UP on NDTV. The image that remained glued to my mind was that of Prannoy Roy hyper-excitedly telling viewers like a schoolboy that the 'Rahul Gandhi" factor was working exceptionally well, almost in the fond hope that such proclamations would influence voters to vote for the Congress. This deception continued right till the very end even when all other exit polls were not half as gung-ho about Rahul's impact and the results started coming in . Psephology had obviously taken a backseat to the political agenda of the news channel. Even when all was lost for the Congress. Prannoy and Barkha simply could not go beyond the usual brain-dead reasoning and the 'analysis' of how the Congress was important to the BSP, particularly because of the Taj corridor case against Mayavati!! Not a word telling the viewers that Rahul Gandhi could get victory for his party in only 6 of the 108 or so constituencies he vigorously campaigned with virtually saturated media coverage. Such a huge investment of air-time and money wasted...they both seemed more devastated than the Congress for this loss and completely oblivious to the monumental significance of Mayavati's victory.

Sanghvi and Mehta are deafening in their silence about Pratibha, which is louder than their criticism of Kalam. Why? They are the media, totally unaccountable to anybody and free to say and write what they wish to. But, it is obvious to anyone who knows even a bit about Indian politics, that while they demand complete freedom to express their views, such men will not say a word for free! Shourie has apparently dug out some damning evidence not only against Pratibha Patil but also about the fact that the top Congress leadership was fully in the knowledge loop long before she was picked as the Presidential candidate by Sonia Gandhi. He is at least honest and open about his political affiliation, which gives a fair opportunity to citizens to judge whether his views are objective or politically dishonest.

On business channels, when experts speak about various stocks, they are asked to give disclosures about their personal interests in the stocks they speak about, so that investors are not manipulated into making wrong investment decisions based on motivated or misleading advice. Such a mandatory disclosure is in place for stocks. But for matters having much larger, even national implications, men who are supposedly journalists blatantly mislead the nation by claiming to be the fathers of the articles they write or they words they utter in the media, when in reality they are nothing more than surrogate mothers delivering children of hidden fathers, for a price.

It is time to expose such political prostitutes who have no qualms in stooping to the lowest possible level of ethics and integrity, while pretending to be lily-white protectors of democracy.

Also read this article http://vinodksharma.blogspot.com/2007/08/sanghvi-journalist-on-hidden-payroll.html