Rhea Chakraborty saga, media credibility – Everything political and drug cartel about it

Ethics and media credibility are being intensely debated these days. Of course, there are more reasons than one. But a great trigger to the entire noise and especially in the social media is ‘India Today’ decision to provide a platform to Rhea Chakraborty – a ‘prime suspect’ in the Sushant Singh Rajput mysterious death.

People cannot have access to independent and reliable information as long as the media remains ‘polarised’ in this manner.

“I didn’t know Sushant on a personal level nor do I know Rhea but what I know is, it only takes to be a human to understand how wrong it is to overtake judiciary to convict someone who isn’t proven guilty,” came in one of those tweets from an unexpected quarter ?

Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu !

But let us come back to ‘India Today’. As your’s blogger comes from old school, the identification ‘India Today’ symbolises print medium when the magazine used to be one of the most trustworthy publications.

There are primarily two-three reasons for me becoming a journalist. One reason is my failure with flirtation with Science and of course another reason is intense reading of ‘India Today’ of 1980s and early 1990s.

Perhaps many people of my generation would not have thought of journalism without that magazine being in the horizon. At least, this blogger is from that illustrious club. But change is an essence of life and electronic medium, the TRP games and social media battles have made the world altogether a different place.

Journalism is a powerful tool of ‘indoctrination’. Stories/interviews must convince and can convince the target audience believe what you intent to say!

The ‘India Today’ TV interview with Rhea Chakraborty could be attributed to one these many factors. But it has certainly hit the credibility button. People could be wrong, but they are emotional and a large number of netizens were thus angry.

In circa 2000, for its special 25 Years publication, Aroon Purie in the edit had said – “…in the age of convergence, content is the king. So keep the faith….”.

That faith was also hit. Purie had also written – “Sometimes success is born out of failure. ‘India Today’ was meant only for Indians living abroad when it started. The idea didn’t work and only then were copies put out in the Indian market”.

Aroon Poorie’s editorial in India Today 25 years special publication

In 2020, ironically did the television channel err in agreeing for that interview? Now, whether Failure will be born out of TRP games and a game discovered post-2002 ?

In 2019, as a guest writer for Dimapur-based daily newspaper ‘Nagaland Page’, I wrote: “……. ‘Jugadu’ journalism is the key stepping stone today – more so in large cities Delhi, Mumbai and various state capitals. In Lucknow and Chandigarh, journalists generally whisper how ‘people’ managed houses from the state governments. Journalists – thus – no longer talk about ‘stories’ or working in challenging situations as opportunities! They talk about junkets, getting into official patronage and in the long run even closer to the throne – where it suits”.

So if television ‘A’ is going with Narendra Modi, the ‘B’ has to go against him. If ‘A’ has sided with Late Sushant and pilloried Rhea; channel ‘B’ has to provide platform to her. The ‘prime suspect’ – who is named as No. 1 in the FIR filed with Patna police, was even given an invitation to slander the deceased actor for allegedly abusing drugs. Forget ethics, the basic humane element required one should not talk like that for a dead person who cannot ever defend himself.

The big issue is not actor Sushant’s surname, religion or his native state and more so because Bihar is going to the polls. The real factor was his age. The country lost a hard working talent at the age of 34 and a political class and Mumbai police easily called it a ‘suicide’ and let everyone ‘suspected’ go scot-free. One of his room mates – was even allowed to travel to Hyderabad and all sorts of argument was being made for not even filing the FIR.

Those who want to defend Mumbai Police, the supposed ‘Scotland yard’ of east, say it was only a preliminary query! Meaning the probe could be ‘preliminary’ even after 64 days.

Senior counsel Harish Salve has this to say: “We have made a complete mockery of criminal investigation system and we have only one agency to thanks for this, Mumbai Police”. Stating that he had no idea why an FIR was not registered, Salve said it is very odd not to have the time of death in the medical report.

Now the issue of media trial. Here too, Salve says “thanks to media trial” that the case has been revisited.

But it true, the media stands ‘polarised’. The same school of thought which said ‘media trial’ was unfair to Narendra Modi both for 2002 mayhem and Rafale row, now perhaps says – it is okay. Ironically, the otherside who thrived in the name of democratic rights to attack Modi today says media trial of Rhea Chakraborty is ‘unfair’.

I have argued this earlier in previous blogs. A section of people have tried to give a spin that things deteriorated in the media under Narendra Modi. This may be a good Chicken and Egg story. More precise finding is that the ‘weakness’ in journalism cultivated for years has ultimately suited Mr Modi and his political machinations.

It will not be erroneous to suggest that it is the lack of professional journalism that has contributed in making a larger than life image of the ‘brand Moditva’. He has rather exploited the weakness and the malady!

Thanks to television journalism and later backed by social media – the ‘screening process’ ended. Thus the Congress and its ‘energetic leader’ Rahul Gandhi’s slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor hae’ was widely reported implying that country’s elected Prime Minister is a ‘thief’.

The hatred for Modi seemed to justify such a cheap campaign.

There was no fear of defamation and no ‘editing’ and screening. Ultimately, as BJP crossed the 300 mark in 2019 polls and the paragon of virtues Rahul Gandhi was reduced to around 50 MPs, it is certain today that the people of India did not approve of such negativism. Even prior to that, do not forget Rahul tendered apology in the Supreme Court on the issue of his campaign on Rafale.

The ‘Lobbying’ journalism in 2009 and around had given birth to the ‘Nira Radia tape’ episode where virtuous journalists were taking messages and meeting politicians trying to work which minister(s) should get which portfolio.

Notably, in 2008-09, the same ‘big name’ patrakar was alleged to have played certain games in ‘Cash for Vote’ scam. The result is L K Advani perhaps had to pay a prince. The Congress easily got five more years, from 2009 to 2014.

But ultimately, on boy; you have landed into the lap of Namo – the much disliked protagonist Narendra Modi!

Importantly, the Prime Minister is quite strong; so much so that despite economic and Covid crisis, he is rated as an outstanding and good Prime Minister by 78 percent of people surveyed.

On the other hand, some corrective measures have started in the Congress. Though belatedly, the media should not miss the big picture.

Importantly, those who hate ‘Modi regime’ should help Congress to put its house in order and also address the issues of ‘appointed presidents’ and ‘elected presidents’.

Kapil Sibal is no RSS man from Nagpur. But he is right when he says – “We (Congress) need to be the lynchpin around which the wheel of the opposition revolves”.

‘Rediscovering of Congress’ can bring about a good opposition and that’s the big picture message in our country, ‘India’ today !

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.