A former anchor of the flagship show of a leading Hindi program ‘Masterstroke’ Punya Prasoon Bajpai aired on national news channel ABP, owned by the Ananda Bazaar Patrika Group, has claimed that his boss the proprietor of the channel had asked him in the second week of July this year “Can you refrain from mentioning the name of Prime Minister Modi ? Mention the names of his ministers by all means; point out anything amiss in a government policy if you want to, even name the minister of the concerned ministry. Just don’t refer to Prime Minister Modi anywhere.” Punya Prasoon Bajpai who has now gone into oblivion claims to have rebutted the demand by saying, “But when Prime Minister Modi himself announces every government scheme, involves himself in the work of every ministry; and when every minister utters the name of Prime Minister Modi every time s/he mentions any scheme or government policy, how is it possible for us to not take Modi’s name? The reply from the proprietor came as, “I say, stop insisting. See for a few days how it plays out. As a matter of fact you are doing the right thing. But leave it be for the time being.” However, after few days Milind Khandekar, Managing editor of ABP News Network resigned. The channel received yet another setback as senior journalist and Anchor Punya Prasoon Bajpai resigned. Yet another of the same channel, Abhisar Sharma who has been the fiercest critics of the Narendra Modi government has also been asked to take 15 days to leave.
It has been a known fact that most of the Television Channels in India have become a mouthpiece of the government. Instead of keeping the government in check, the media in India is more interested in criticizing the opposition, and those doing so are “rewarded” with ample “support” from the government that comes in the form of revenue generating advertisements, and those who don’t toe the government’s line are treated the way Punya Prasoon Bajpai has been treated. The Modi government wants and has turned most of the anchors and the channels to be a mouthpiece of the government. Journalism was never to endorse someone or an ideology. Their job is to take a critical view of whoever is in power so in this case, it is the government and its policies.
There have been only few who have been playing the role of a critic of the government which is the prime responsibility of a journalists’ job. Ravish Kumar of NDTV has been trolled on social network sites, has received threats. Only a month back, one of India’s leading English anchor Barkha Dutt had said without naming people, that the top people in the BJP party have been dissuading the promoters or television channels. Barkha Dutt also claimed that over the past year, TV channels that had requested her to do shows had backed off as “top leaders of the BJP have a problem” with her and the companies did not want to take a risk. With such allegations against the government by prominent journalist of India, the government has not found it appropriate to issue a statement and has maintained a perfect silence.
The vindictive manner in which Punya Prasoon Bajpai, two other journalist of the ABP Channel have been treated after their critical reporting on the government policies is aimed at having a chilling effect on others in the profession and that’s exactly what the government of the day wants just before the election. All those voices that have an essence of criticism should turn into its soft spokesperson.
These resignations raise a concern, that media organizations have always faced pressure politically however, this time the government has gone all out to muzzle any voice that doesn’t suits it free propaganda of Modi government.
Ravish Kumar of NDTV has strongly put his views strongly and do need a mention here, “Now, it’s the people who have to answer about what kind of journalism they want to give their money to.The people who took a risk, they lost their jobs. In the world’s biggest democracy, people cannot tolerate four journalists? This is the test of democracy. We cannot become a world leader like this. How much do people value independent media?”