Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
The Indian media is now broadly divided into two camps:
(1) The majority, which is the shameless, sold-out, and sycophantic ‘godi’ media. Those in this camp paint a rosy picture of conditions in India ( somewhat like Dr. Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister who kept saying that Germany was winning the Second World War even when it was clearly losing it ). They depict critics of the government as anti-nationals, maoists, ‘tukde tukde’ gang, etc, and whip up feelings against Pakistan, which is painted as the devil, and Muslims, who are often branded as anti-nationals, fanatics, and terrorists.
The leader of this camp is a TV anchor I call Lord Bhow Bhow ( paraphrasing Lord Haw Haw, the Britisher who gave radio broadcasts for the Nazis and was later hanged ). He has developed an imitable style, and is far ahead of his flock. Instead of being neutral and unbiased as a journalist should be, he consistently peddles the BJP Govt line on his TV shows, screams and shouts like a madman at those who disagree with him on the show, giving them little time to speak ( in fact he himself speaks most of the time ), and whips up communal feelings against minorities and jingoism against Pakistan. Truth is wholly irrelevant to him, just as it was to Dr Goebbels, and he twists/falsifies facts at the drop of a hat.
Others in the camp also follow the same line, including many anchors in both English and Hindi TV channels. The servile print media is also mostly in this camp.
(2) The minority, which though ostensibly anti-BJP and pretending to be a ‘free’ media and upright, in fact, falsifies facts by painting a rosy picture of the strength of the anti-BJP struggle and anti-BJP forces.
This camp keeps harping on the mishandling by the Govt of the covid crisis, growing unemployment, farmers agitation, etc but deliberately avoids stating that despite all this Modi’s popularity rating among the Indian people, as revealed in several investigative reports, remains unchanged and is still very high.
There is one journalist in this camp, whom I have nicknamed Mickey Mouse, who was for years on a leading position in a ‘godi media’ TV channel. Later, having been sacked from there, he has done a somersault, and become fervently anti-BJP. He now runs his own YouTube channel, of which he claims he has within one year got 1.5 million subscribers and over 240 million views.
His modus operandi is simple: he picks up a hot topic and then pursues it relentlessly, going to the spot daily, and thus creating the impression that while he reports from ground zero, other journalists rarely do so.
For example, he picked up the farmers’ agitation, and for months on end would land up at the Singhu, Tikdi or Ghazipur borders early morning, and would interview Rakesh Tikait and others. Later he went to Kolkata to cover the West Bengal elections.
On returning to Delhi he keeps praising the farmers’ struggle but deliberately does not report the truth that it has largely fizzled out, that the crowd at the Delhi borders are now just a few thousand ( whereas earlier it was hundreds of thousands ).
There is a lady journalist, whom I call Madame Pompadour, who was involved in the Radia tapes, and thought she could distribute Union Govt Ministry portfolios when Congress, to which she was close, was in power. When the BJP came to power she started weeping and wailing that nobody contacts her now, but she has herself to blame. Is it the job of a journalist to cozy up to a political party and hobnob with its leaders?
She later went around the country with her team to report about covid victims, for whom her heart was bleeding ( her heart bleeds very easily and frequently ) but has not yet disclosed who funded her team for this.
There is also a puffed up Hindi journalist, whom I call Humpty Dumpty ( because like Humpty he had a great fall ), who was a leading anchor on a TV channel, but when he was about to be sacked he quickly resigned and joined a newly formed political party, thinking he will rise high in politics. But when he was denied Rajya Sabha ticket he got frustrated and has now started a Hindi website along with others, criticizing the BJP always, though one of his partners was formerly in a top position in a godi media TV channel. Journalism, like politics, makes strange bedfellows!
An English media journalist who is critical of the Govt runs a website along with some others. He always advocates freedom of the press but does not believe in practicing it, as he will never allow views different from his ( e.g. that the solutions to India’s huge problems lie outside the Constitutional framework, or that Muslims should give up sharia, burqa and madrasas if they wish to progress ) to be published in his portal, not even with a disclaimer that the views published are not shared by the publishers. I have nicknamed him PDP ( ‘Preach but don’t practice ‘ ).
Yet, tweets keep appearing several times daily from his portal begging the public to donate several lac rupees in a week to sustain this ‘free’ medium.
So really there is not much difference between the ‘godi’ media and the ‘free’ media.’