RJD leader and former deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav has written to several opposition leaders asking them to take boycott Indian TV channels during the campaign for this year’s Lok Sabha polls. Tejashwi’s call for a blanket ban on ‘news channels’ goes beyond the usual suspects of the India media such as Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, Times Now and Zee News.
Among those, who he has written to are Congress President Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda, AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi and Former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah.
Accusing the TV channels masquerading as news outlets of producing spectacle ‘every evening with the sole aim of denigrating all the opposition parties,’ Tejashwi wrote, ” It
is an open secret now that a powerful section of the television media is deeply vested in the electoral fortunes of the BJP. If it was a case of subtle siding with the party in power, the spokespersons of various opposition parties would have expected to counter the tilt in rational debates held in news channel studios.
“However, reality is more sinister than that, many anchors of the said news channels have not only given up all pretence of impartiality in their conduct of debates on issues of national importance but have gone ahead to spout vitriolic hate in the Indian society, and incite violence. This is being done without any regard to the national interests, including national security. Many senior and well-respected journalists have been warning us about the near-total breakdown of the ethics of journalism in these corporate house funded news channels.”
Tejashwi went on to write allege that ‘the news channel studios’ had been ‘seized fully by fascist tendencies, and that no rational debate is possible at these theatres of death and doom.’ “The engagement and presence of opposition voices is only instrumentalized to lend credibility to their falsehoods. While the common men and women of our country would like to see their everyday life and livelihood issues occupying the central rostrum of these spaces, in reality they find their issues being silenced and invisibilized,” he wrote.
He urged key opposition leaders to not participate in TV debates. Tejashwi concluded his letter with an appeal that read, “Therefore, we appeal to all political parties in the opposition and conscientious voices of the Indian public sphere to not participate in the shouting matches held in the name of ‘debate’ by these channels and anchors, and to refuse to be complicit in their campaign of distortion and deceit. Conspicuous absence of faces and voices from opposition shall not allow them to continue with their pre-scripted debates and discussion. I believe if we can take a united and collective call on this, it shall be of great help to the cause we are fighting for.”
So far, only Soren has responded to his letter expressing his agreement with the idea to boycott TV channels. He wrote, “@yadavtejashwi’ji, we are all together & united in this fight against cultural fascism & oppression unleashed by the ruling @BJP4India govt through favoured media platforms & TV studios. We will be there on the ground with people & continue to raise their voices.”
While Indian TV channels have become notorious for pushing the agenda of the RSS and the BJP, the opposition parties have not been able to muster courage to boycott them. For example, the Congress had refused to even publicly condemn News18 India when its anchor slapped one of its spokespersons, Rajiv Tyagi, during a Live TV debate last year. The grand old party of India had announced last year that it will boycott a TV show hosted by one Rohit Sardana on Aaj Tak after he repeatedly insulted Congress spokespersons. However, the Congress bowed down to the channel and began to send its representatives in debates the same day it announced the boycott.