Monday, June 5, 2017

Prannoy Roy is ‘independent media’ and Kejriwal is ‘Swaraj’

We 1.3 billion Indians are “officially” living under “Goonda Raj” because Business Standard columnist Ajai Shukla’s former employer Prannoy Roy is being investigated by the CBI for allegedly causing losses of Rs 48 crore to ICICI Bank.

“Prannoy Roy of NDTV being raided by IT Dept. (sic) India officially a Goonda Raj, anyone critical of govt will be crushed by official machinery,” Ajai Shukla tweeted on Monday.

What is “official” in India?

That which members of the extended NDTV club say is “official”.

And Prannoy Roy the individual is equal to the “independent media” in India as Nidhi Razdan, another member of the NDTV club, suggested in her tweet on Monday.

“A message to those in the media who are still independent and do their job by fearlessly asking questions. We won't be intimidated,” Razdan tweeted.

NDTV gave a demonstration of its “independence” on Monday by suddenly withdrawing from its website, without a word of explanation to the writer or the readers, a blog -post authored by sacked Delhi minister Kapil Mishra in which he lays bare some of the dirty tricks and false propaganda that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been employing to smear members of his own party.

The blog post headlined ‘Yeh hain Arvind Kejriwal ke Brahmastra’ was uploaded on NDTV Hindi website late Sunday evening. That’s when I read it.

It was no longer on the website this morning.

Linked below is an Aaj Tak report based on Kapil Mishra’s blog post.

Mishra tweeted this morning about the removal of his blog-post from NDTV Hindi site.

बहादुर @ndtv ने AK की सच्चाई वाला मेरा ब्लॉग बिना बताये हटाया। AK का नाम आते ही NDTV के लिए सिर्फ बागों में बहार है।

Censoring material that favourite politicians like Kejriwal find uncomfortable is just one instance of the “independent” journalism that NDTV does.

It has long been acting as Kejriwal’s propaganda aid, serving to spread his canards, as I explained in a blog-post of my own on 15 May.

I wrote about how NDTV had put out a ridiculous story based on information from unnamed AAP “sources” (obviously Kejriwal or his gang) about a “coup” attempted by party member Kumar Vishwas against the ‘Supremo’.

Kejriwal, the NDTV Indian of the Year 2011, has been duly returning the favour to his old friend “Dr. Roy”.

“We strongly condemn raids on Dr Roy n NDTV group. Its an attempt to silence independent and anti-establishment voices,” Kejriwal tweeted on Monday.

Nobody knows more about “independent and anti-establishment voices” in the media than Kejriwal.

In March 2014, he famously declared that TV channels had been paid “heavy amounts” to promote Narendra Modi and that, if his party came to power, he would send all of those media people to jail.

(The Broadcast Editors Association had then condemned Kejriwal's "irresponsible" statement with the words that “BEA feels that such statements are a conspiracy to dilute the credibility of media.")

It’s a different story that it’s Kejriwal who was caught on camera the same month pre-scripting and fixing an interview with Punya Prasun Bajpai of Aaj Tak.

And I still remember the summer of 2011 when Kejriwal personally told me that he’d had enough of Shekhar Gupta (editor of Indian Express which was then acerbically critical of Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal Andolan) and “we are now looking for some ‘material’ on him” to pay him back.

As for “Dr. Roy” of NDTV and Arvind Kejriwal, it has been a long association.

I can trace it at least to 2009 when I was working with Kejriwal on ‘National RTI Awards’ and NDTV was one of our media partners in publicizing some of the success stories emerging from that exercise.

Kejrwal then had a hotline with “Dr. Roy”. I recall “Dr. Roy” sometimes directly texting Kejriwal from his summer retreat in Dehradun.

But then, it was a time when Kejriwal’s love affair with the media was blossoming.

ZEE News (of Subhash Chandra, now a BJP-sponsored member of the Rajya Sabha) had even given him a 15-minute exclusive slot in the evening on 3-4 days of a week to explain his concept of ‘Swaraj’ to the public.

Kejriwal has long since fallen out with ZEE News and has been branding that and some other channels as biased against him.

Far from sending to jail media people, who received “heavy amounts” to promote Modi, Kejriwal the Chief Minister has been appointing journalists on the governing bodies of colleges in Delhi as the Caravan article linked below explains.

“Sharad Sharma, a reporter at NDTV who is on the governing body of Kamla Nehru College with (Saba) Naqvi, has written paeans to Kejriwal’s honesty and integrity on NDTV in Hindi,” said the Caravan article published in June 2016.

“When he went to cover a rally last year before the elections, where Kejriwal was due to appear, he wrote about the ever-increasing crowds to see Kejriwal thus: “the crowd not only listens to Kejriwal, but shouts slogans when he pauses for a break between his words.”

So Kejriwal has a very exacting definition of “independent and anti-establishment voices” in the media.

Meeting his standards is as difficult as putting Sheila Dikshit or Mukesh Ambani in jail.

I still remember Kejriwal was curiously never asked about the clearly dubious nature of the 'political alternative' drama staged in July-Aug 2012 (the last round of Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal Andolan) when he appeared in NDTV's Hum Log soon after the event, even though he was so nervous (through fear that somebody would ask that question) that he blurted out that "it could not have been staged".

That Hum Log programme was hosted by Ravish Kumar who often talks very piously of how an intolerant establishment is bearing down on media's right to ask questions.

But then, don’t forget what the members of the extended NDTV club or “honest” politicians like Kejriwal tell you.

Prannoy Roy = “independent media" in India.

CBI investigation into Prannoy Roy’s financial skulduggery = “official Goonda Raj” in India.

Kejriwal = ‘Swaraj’ in India.

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