Channels ‘black out’ Chidambaram’s press meet. Are they afraid of Modi?

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Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram reacted sharply on the article written by his predecessor and veteran BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, for the Indian Express. Sinha’s scathing criticism for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dominated the news coverage of news outlets across the platforms.

This also heaped considerable embarrassment on the Centre’s Narendra Modi government, given that this crucification had come from BJP’s own leader and someone who had held the finance portfolio twice in the past in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet.

Reacting to Sinha’s article, Chidambaram tweeted earlier in the day, “Yashwant Sinha speaks Truth to Power. Will Power now admit the Truth that economy is sinking?”

He added, “ETERNAL TRUTH: No matter what Power does, ultimately Truth will prevail.”

Later in the day, around 4 PM in the afternoon, he addressed a press party from Congress headquarter in Delhi. Continuing his criticism, Chidambaram said, “We are happy that Mr Yashwant Sinha has echoed our criticism. Yashwant said truth about the economy. Congress has, for nearly 18 months, highlighted these very grave weaknesses in economy. We were told, in effect, to shut up.”

He went on to add, “How long will the government hide behind PM’s rhetoric, haven’t heard ‘achhe din’ slogan in a while. Private investment has shrunk. Congress has exposed many weaknesses in the economy and the terrible mismanagement. It was a terrible idea to breach the fiscal deficit target. For four quarters government said India is fastest growing economy, that bluff has been called.”

One would have imagined that given the attention generated by Sinha’s Indian Express piece, Chidambaram’s press conference should have merited a live broadcast on every news channel. But, as it turned out, every channel barring NDTV and Mirror Now, chose to give it a miss. Clearly, in their editorial wisdom, the editors of these channels did not deem it fit to devote LIVE air time to what Chidambaram had to say.

This despite that #YashwantSinha remained a top national trend on Twitter and Facebook.

NDTV and Mirror Now remained on the story live for a considerably long time even as news agency ANI continued to flash the former finance minister’s comments live from its Twitter handle. The agency was also beaming visuals of his press conference LIVE back to the newsrooms of all TV channels.

Congress’s head of media, Randeep Surjewala, told Janta Ka Reporter, “Muzzling of media and prostration by journalists before the ruling dispensation have become a new norm in India. It’s time journalists realised their responsibilities as being members of the fourth pillar of the democracy. It’s clear that they chose not to broadcast Mr Chidambaram’s press conference out of fear of the government. After all, you have a person no less than the Information and Broadcasting minister (Smriti Irani) issuing regular threats to media houses and agencies asking them to fall in line.”

We tried to speak to the bosses of these channels to understand their editorial wisdom on choosing to not carry Chidambaram’s press conference on the current economic situation.

Editors of most channels were unavailable to comment on the issue. while the editor-in-chief of Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar, told Janta Ka Reporter that his channel was the first to break the story of Sinha’s criticism in the Indian Express.

He said, “It’s wrong to say that we did not cover Chidambaram’s press conference. As far as I know, just when he began to speak, we had the news of Indian army’s offensive in Myanmar. That may have been the reason for our delayed coverage of Chidambaram’s press conference. Yet, we carried Chidambaram’s press conference in two frames.”

A journalist in Republic TV told Janta Ka Reporter that they had clear instructions ‘not to cut live’ to the former finance minister’s press meet. The channel has come under plenty of criticism for its biases in favour of the BJP and the central government.

Here’s what was being covered on other channels while Chidambaram addressed the media.

 

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