Fierce independence, fearlessness and a determination to always stand up to the powerful and fight against the abuse or misuse of power were listed as the finest virtue of journalism by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, when he delivered the second Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture earlier this month. Media is after all the fourth pillar of democracy and has the most crucial role in holding those in power to account. “Thus the need to ask questions of those in power is fundamental for the preservation of our nation and of a truly democratic society. This is a role that the media has traditionally played and must carry on playing”, said the President.
The role of media in a democracy is an academic discussion. In reality, the most visible role in some sections of Indian media these days is “cheerleading” for those in power. The recent coverage of the three year celebrations of the Modi Sarkar by the media is a case study in point that separates journalism from cheerleading.
Let us look at the top five cheerleading moments that we witnessed to mark the occasion:
“Three years on, Modi sweeps the polls”. The Economic Times cover page to mark “Teen Saal Bemisaal“, the three year anniversary of Modi Sarkar, raised many eyebrows for good reason. It is not often that we see such an over-the-top adulation of the government by a leading national paper. Or is it?
Economic Times also brought us other gems, like “Globetrotter Prime Minister: How Modi turns the world into his office“.
In case the celebrations marking the third anniversary of Modi government left you wondering about the benefits that the Indian economy derived out of the mammoth demonetisation exercise, India Today’s piece had some valuable insight. In an article by Rahul Kanwal titled “PM Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move gave economy Rs 5 lakh crore advantage“, the benefits as per a government report were neatly listed out. Kanwal deserves a mention for exemplary individual effort for playing the government mouthpiece.
The story of Kanwal’s cheerleading will not be complete without reading the brilliant takedown by Mayank Jain in this thread.
Sorry, Rahul but this story is as far removed from facts as you seem to be from investigative journalism. https://t.co/OjTgJzltDv
— Mayank Jain (@Mayank1029) May 25, 2017
All eyes have been on the newly launched channel that boasts of not only being “India’s only independent news venture” but a “movement”. Tall own claims aside, Republic completely lived up to our cheerleading expectations in its first three weeks. Therefore, many hearts skipped a beat when Arnab Goswami said he has five straight questions on the completion of three years of Modi Sarkar. Was he finally going to address a question to the government? Was he going to hold them to account? No, he didn’t disappoint us in any way. Lo and behold, his first question was about Rahul Gandhi. And then he had one about Nitish Kumar. Finally he moved to critical questions which he presumed the nation would want to know, i.e., whether Narendra Modi is the most popular Prime Minister of India since independence and whether 2019 is now a foregone conclusion.
Watch the video to see Arnab at his sycophantic best.
— Republic (@republic) May 26, 2017
Republic also brought us the results of a survey to tell us what percentage of people supported the biggest achievements of Modi government, like surgical strikes and demonetisation. Though growth of the fringe was mentioned as a letdown by a small percentage of people, other “minor” issues like unemployment, did not even find a mention, at least in their tweets.
You may be wondering what a propaganda website like Postcard news is doing in this serious list. There are many reasons behind it. It is included to bring a glimpse of the extreme of the spectrum. One where cheerleading meets fake news and distortion of facts. The other reason is that it is shared widely by the cheerleaders of the government on social media. But the biggest reason to include them is to show how one can even spin “unemployment”, which is one of the biggest challenge that the country faces, into a positive story. After bringing us a story two months ago that unemployment had actually halved under the leadership of PM Modi, on completion of three years, Postcard news brought us some real facts of employment “Achche Din” are here and unemployment is actually a myth. Before you laugh out loud at it, remember this is what will go around the country on WhatsApp and an old school friend will soon share these “real facts” with you, if he hasn’t done so already.
No one can beat the cheerleading effort of the Gujarati newspaper Divya Bhaskar. The publication has come up with a video that draws a parallel between Prime Minister Modi and the character of Baahubali. The text accompanying the video explains further, “On the completion of three years of Narendra Modi led NDA government, people look at Prime Minister Modi as Baahubali. We have also drawn comparisons between Bahubali and Modi on eight issues where Modi’s conduct is similar to Baahubali. So, at the end of three years, lets watch Narendra Baahubali-3“.
Words can’t do justice to this epic cheerleading. Sit back and enjoy the video on “Eight points that make Modi Narendra Baahubali-3”.
That’s all folks, we hope you enjoyed this collection of “Teen Saal Cheerleading Bemisaal”. Watch out for more as some sections of the media not only continue to look away from any critical evaluation of the government but also actively deflect attention away from its failures. Meanwhile the opposition parties and their leaders and the liberals continue to be their favourite punching bags.