Posts Tagged ‘Raj Thackeray’

‘Media shapes, sexes up, manipulates, distorts’

10 September 2008

Is the media playing with the tiger’s tail? Or is the tiger cub riding the media? In other words, just how much is the media responsible for the Raj Thackeray bogey?

Is the “demonisation” of Thackeray junior entirely the handiwork of sensation-seeking journalists trying to fill up the airwaves in the era of 24×7 news? Is the Maharashtra Navanirman Samithi (MNS) campaign against migrant workers, taxi drivers, and the Bachchan family, “a demon created by the media”?

Yes, say two people who should know.

Exhibit A: K.L. Prasad.

The joint commissioner of police (law and order), Bombay, blames the issue on profusion of reportage. In fact, he says there was “no issue at all.”

“I have a complaint against the media. You people make heroes out of zeroes. I would say, just neglect him [Raj Thackeray]. He will get asphyxia. Channels are constantly repeating the footage. One incident is shown 74 times. This is clearly [a way of] reinforcing it in the mind.”

Exhibit B: Mahesh Vijapurkar.

Longtime Bombay bureau chief of The Hindu, he writes that the media has on three separate occasions missed the woods for the trees and distorted Raj Thackeray’s statements.

Irving Wallace was bang on target in his 1982 novel The Almighty in which the power-hungry media-owner Edward Armstead‘s obsession was to shape the news and then manipulate and control it with disastrous consequences to the world.

“The Indian media’s obsession to shape—or sex up?—a story to its worst distortion has come to the fore. And without anyone even batting an eyelid in concern.

“What further mischief lies ahead? Can we trust the mass media? The reader believes the printed word and sees television, despite its limited depth—or actually, the absolute lack of it—as real because he sees live images….

“The media has lost its head and plunged the region into trouble, jeopardising lives and property by its irresponsibility.”

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/The Indian Express

Read the full story: How the media created the Raj Thackeray bogey

Should Hitler have been asked to explain?

25 February 2008

The media has been a key player in Raj Thackeray‘s hate campaign against “outsiders” in Bombay. In giving him the oxygen of publicity, in editorialising news, in fanning the flames by repeatedly showing file pictures, in not dealing with the issue with balance and proportion, the media has come under scrutiny from the Union cabinet, from independent analysts, and from sections of the media itself.

Thackeray himself has used the local Marathi media adroitly in turning this into an “us versus them” issue. He has written a signed article in Maharashtra Times (of The Times of India group), he has responded to an open letter in Lok Satta (of the Indian Express group), and he has kept his media conferences out of bounds to English and Hindi media (whom he sees as antithetical to the local interests he is championing).

The veteran journalist Jyoti Punwani has some fine questions on all this:

# Should a newspaper offer its pages to a politician who has been promoting hatred against other Indians on the basis of region and language, and whose followers have assaulted unarmed innocents on that basis?

# If that politician uses the space offered to him to justify and further his hate campaign, should the newspaper carry his piece without any strong editorial rebuttal alongside?

# As a political leader entitled to invite to a press conference journalists of his/her choice, based on language/region? In that case, what should be the response of journalists, especially those invited?

# Should TV cameras telecast incidents of violence during communal riots again and again without specifying that these are file pictures?

# Finally, how should the media report on the acts of a politician leading a hate campaign based on region and language?

Read the full article: Lending hate campaigns a platform

‘Did we fight Emergency for this kind of media?’

16 February 2008

The media coverage of the verbal and physical violence in Bombay over the influx of outsiders continues to draw attention. Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reports that at the Union cabinet meeting on February 14, senior ministers “expressed their outrage” at the reporting which some of them felt sparked panic and led to a mass exodus from the metropolis to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Cabinet sources told IANS that once Railway Minister Lalu Prasad raised the issue, some ministers described as “irresponsible” and “provocative” the media coverage of the MNS protests that began Feb 3.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil pointed out that television news channels had been beaming pictures of sporadic trouble frequently giving a “false impression about the violence and thereby creating panic”.

A cabinet minister told IANS: “For once, every minister was furious and everyone agreed that the media coverage caused more trouble.”

One minister felt that it was the media that made Raj Thackeray, “a person who tried to strengthen his party by dividing the country,” into a hero.

“The media should not forget its social responsibilities when it reports such events. It is high time that there should be some control over such reporting,” a minister told reporters on condition of anonymity.

In The Indian Express, Peter Ronald DeSouza, director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, writes that the media coverage raises doubts about “the role of the press as a sentinel of freedom, of news not massaged, of media as the mirror of reality”, and goes so far as to ask if fighting for media freedom has proved to be futile.

“Is this then the same free media for which we fought the Emergency? Thinking about this question I have the sinking feeling that the ground has shifted, that the moral reasons on which we fought for a free press are no longer so clear and firm. The story of the frog and the hot water keeps coming to mind. Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will jump out. Immerse it in a pot of lukewarm water, and put the pot to boil, and the frog will remain there quite unaware that it is being boiled. Which frog is the media today? Which frog is the reader-viewer today?”

Read the full story: Who’s that in the mirror?

Does television create the ‘reality’ it reports?

15 February 2008

As naturally as night follows day, the television coverage of the recent upsurge in linguistic chauvinism in Bombay has come under scrutiny. A bit like the violence in Rajasthan in the war between the Meenas and Gujjars two years ago. The rolling coverage, the endless replay of made-for-TV incidents to make it seem like a wave, the hysterical editorialisation… are all seen to have distorted the reality and exacerbated the situation.

The Indian Express says this in an editorial today:

“The race for breaking news on television brings with it some obvious constraints — and dangers. The image, played and replayed incessantly, magnifies the event, often investing it with exaggerated importance. Television images also have a proven capacity to produce the “reality effect”. It is inadequately realised that the power to show is also the power to mobilise. Did the visual media act with a sense of its own power, in covering the events in Maharashtra? Was a sense of proportion in play? Were there enough editorial checks? And what about the rest of us, did we just simply receive from them and react?”

Read the full article: Screening images

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