We journalists often question others but never ourselves. We fix others’ responsibilities but never ours. We are called as the fourth pillar of the democracy but are we, our organisations, our thoughts and our actions really democratic? This is not just my question but everybody else’s too.
The way JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was framed on the pretext of nationalism and declared a traitor through media trial, this came as a very dangerous trend.
Our job as journalists is to question the people in power and not collude with them. Whatever we’ve achieved as journalists in the history of journalism, it’s a result of these questions.
Whether you question or not is an individual’s personal matter. But I believe that what’s personal is also political. There comes a time when you have to choose between professional obligation and political and social allegiance. I’ve opted for the second and resigned from Zee News because of these differences on 19 February.
My resignation is dedicated to those lakhs and crores of Kanhaiyas dreamy eyed JNU friends, who continue to fight and struggle with the system.
(This what I wrote to Zee News as part of my resignation)
“Dear Zee News,
After 1 year four months and four days, the time has come that I should part ways with you. I should have take this decision lot earlier, but if I don’t do it now, I will not be able to forgive myself.
What I’m going to say now is not a result of any emotion, anger or frustration. My statement here is well thought out. Aside from being a journalist, I’m also a citizen of the country, under whose name the poison of blind-nationalism is being propagated and the country is being pushed towards a civil war.
My responsibility as a citizen and profession obligation prompts me to stop this from happening. I know that my efforts is like crossing an ocean with a boat. Nonetheless, I would still like to make a beginning. These thoughts in mind and to protest our (channel’s) role to promote fake nationalism in the wake of Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest, I resign from my post.
I urge you to accept my resignation without any prejudice and personal enmity. In fact the matter is not even personal here. It’s about professional obligation, social responsibility and love for the country. I regret to say that on these three parameters, I failed on many occasions in the past one year because of my association with you.
Since May 2014, when Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister, almost every newsroom has become communalised but the situation in Zee News is even more frightening. I apologise for the use of such words but there’s no other way to describe the situation.
Why is it so that we are always forced to give a spin to every news, to give impression that portray Modi’s agenda in positive light.
I’m beginning to have serious doubts about being a journalist. It seems like we are spokespersons of the (BJP) government and sometimes supari killers too.
Modi is the prime minister of our country, mine too. But as a journalist I can’t digest so much of Modi Bhakti. My conscience is rebelling against me. It seems as if I’ve fallen ill now.
There’s an agenda behind every news, news show. There’s an effort to portray the Modi government in the best light.
In discussion shows, every effort is being made to shoot down the anti-Modi voices. We don’t accept any words less than attack and war. What’s all this? When I stop to think, I feel I’ve gone mad.
Why, have we been made so cheap, immoral and people bereft of any faith or belief? After having passed out from one of India’s top media institutes and after having worked for organisations like the Aaj Tak, BBC Deutsche Welle (Germany) now I am left with one identity that I should be called as Chee News reporter. My integrity has been shattered, who’s responsible for this?
How many things should I mention? A relentless campaign was had been launched against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and it’s still continuing. Why so? Why were questions raised on matters like electricity, water, education, odd-even formula? These were issues that provided relief to the Delhiites.
As journalist we have every right to disagree and ridicule Kejriwal but we don’t have a right to indulge in supari killing against him.
If I make a list of anti-Kejriwal story, it will fill many pages. I want to know that if the basic ethos of journalism, i.e. accuracy, honesty towards our viewers have any values or not.
This is what happened on the issue of Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula and his suicide. We first addressed him as a Dalit scholar, then as “Dalit student. That’s still ok. But at least they should have written the news properly.
The role of ABVP leader and BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya in forcing Rohith Vemula to commit suicide is still surrounded by dubious questions (everything is clear). But as a media house our work was to dilute the issue and to be their protector.
I remember when Uday Prakash and other eminent writers started returning their awards on the question of intolerance, we started raising questions about them instead.
Let me talk about Uday Prakash who has millions of readers. He is the pride of the language we speak, the one we use for our livelihood i.e. Hindi. His work reflects our lives, our dreams, our struggles, but we are trying to prove that this was all a conspiracy. I was hurt even then, but tolerated it.
But now how long should I do it – and why?
I am not able to sleep well. I am restless. Maybe it is the result of a guilt conscience. It is the biggest taint any individual can be marked by: treason, of being a traitor. But the question is, as journalists, what right do we have to give certificates and degrees on being a traitor? Isn’t this the domain of the courts?
Along with Kanhaiya, we made many students appear to be traitors and anti-nationals in the eyes of the people. If anyone is murdered tomorrow, who will take its responsibility? We have not merely created a situation for someone’s murder or to destroy some families but we have created the conditions ripe for spreading riots and brought the country to the brink of a civil-war. What sort of patriotism is this? After all, what sort of journalism is this?
Are we the mouthpieces of the BJP or the RSS that we will do whatever they say? The video didn’t have any “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans at all – yet we played it repeatedly to spread madness and mayhem. How did we believe that some voices coming out of the dark belonged to Kanhaiya and his companions? Due to our biases, we heard “long live Indian courts” as “long live Pakistan” and working on the government line, brought the careers, their hopes and aspirations and families of some people to the brink of destruction. It would have been better if we had let the agencies do their jobs and waited for their conclusions.
People are threatening to rape Umar Khalid’s sister and attack her with acid, they are calling her the sister of a traitor. Think, if something like this happens, would we not be responsible for it? Kanhaiya said it not once but thousands of times that he does not endorse anti-national slogans but he was not even heard once because the mayhem we created was on the government line. Have we taken a serious look at Kanhaiya’s home? Kanhaiya’s home is not a “home” but a painful symbol of the helplessness of this country’s farmers and common people, it is a graveyard of those hopes that are being buried every second in this country. But we have become blind.
It hurts me to say this but I want to say that there are many houses like this where I come from. Indian rural life is equally colourless. Those broken-down walls and already-weakened lives have been injected with the poison of nationalism without thinking about its consequences. If Kanhaiya’s paralysed father dies out of shock, would we not be responsible? If the Indian Express had not done the story [on Kanhaiya’s family], this country would not have come to know where Kanhaiya gets the inspiration to speak for the rights of the deprived.
Rama Naga and others are also in the same state. From modest backgrounds, having struggled against poverty, these boys managed to get a subsidised education at JNU. You can see the confidence in progressing. But those willing to sell out for TRPs have almost ruined their careers.
It’s possible that we don’t agree with their politics or that their ideas are radical, but how did they become traitors? How can we appropriate the work of the courts in judging? Is it just a coincidence that Delhi Police’s FIR has Zee News’ name in it? Is it that we are in nexus with the Delhi Police? What answer can we give the people.
After all, what do we have against JNU or JNU’s students? I believe the modern values, democracy, diversity and co-existence of opposing views has made JNU an eden in India, but now we have begun calling it a den of treason and outlaws.
I’d like to know if it is JNU that is beyond the law or the BJP leaders who stormed into court to beat up a leader of the Left? The BJP MLA and his supporters were beating up a CPI leader on the streets, with the police simply standing by and watching the spectacle. On screen we could see the assault and we wrote ‘Allegations of violence against OP Sharma’. I asked why did we have to say ‘allegations’? I was told this was because it came from ‘upar’ (above). How has our ‘upar’ gotten so low? You can understand if it goes p to Modi, but things have gotten to such a state that we are now saving BJP leaders like OP Sharma and ABVP workers?
I have started to loathe my existence, my journalism and my helplessness. Is this why I left a number of careers to become a journalist? Maybe not.
Now there are only two options before me. Either I leave journalism, or I separate myself from these conditions. I am taking the second route. I have not made any decisions, I am just asking some questions about my profession and my identity. It is a small matter, but this accountability is important. It’s less for others and more for me. I’m quite certain I won’t be able to get a job anywhere else. I also understand that if I had kept at it, I would have gotten close to a lakh. My salary is good but it comes with too many sacrifices, which I’m unwilling to give. I come from an ordinary middle class family, so I know how difficult it is to be without a salary, but still my consciousness will not be stifled.
I am saying again that I don’t have any personal complaints. These are issues of institutional and editorial policy. I trust that it will be understood also in this way.
It is also important to say that if a media house wants to impose its right-wing preferences, individuals should also be free to talk about their own political lines. It is my job as a journalist to remain neutral, but as a person and an enlightened citizen, my path is of the Left which is found not in party offices but in our everyday lives. This is my identity.
And finally, I am thankful for the year in which I struggled within Zee News. It is because of that struggle I managed to make some good friends.
Vishwadeepak on Sunday quit from Zee News protesting the alleged biases in favour of Modi, BJP and the RSS and continuous compromises with media ethics
(Part of English translation courtesy : Scroll.in)