Did NDTV censor Chidambaram’s interview? Channel faces social media wrath


India’s popular news channel NDTV is facing social media heat for its decision to allegedly censor P Chidambaram’s interview, conducted by equally popular anchor Barkha Dutt.

Barkha had spoken to Chidambaram on the controversy over the Indian military’s claims of having conducted surgical strikes across the LoC killing dozens of terrorists.

The topic had gained intense political colour after it emerged that the ruling BJP had wasted no time in extracting electoral mileage particularly in poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Punjab.

The channel ran excerpts of Chidambaram’s interview all throughout on Thursday but never ran the full interview. This despite the fact that Chidambaram had held key portfolios, Home and Finance in Manmohan Singh government and was also a member of PM’s cabinet committee on security for a decade.

Replying to news portal Wire’s queries, NDTV’s co-founder and chairperson, Radhika Roy refused to answer why the channel had decided to drop its interview with Chidambaram.

Referring to other points on the channel’s editorial policy, Roy said, “We do not believe that we are obliged to carry every shred of drivel that has now come to pass as public discourse. I’d also like to stress that this is part of our normal editorial policy not to provide a platform to outrageous and wild accusations that thrive only on publicity. Our statement giving our reasons is on air and I think that answers the larger question.”

In the excerpts played out on NDTV on Thursday, Chidambaram had slammed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statements made in the aftermath of the 29 September surgical strikes. He also reminded in the interview how even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cautioned his ministers against chest thumping on what was a sensitive military issue.

This was after posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Parrikar had suddenly sprung up in Uttar Pradesh and Goa, two states scheduled to go to assembly polls next year.

Chidambaram has now written to NDTV asking for reasons why his interview was dropped from the channel.

The NDTV’s controversial decision not to carry Chidambaram’s interview allegedly because its contents ‘risked security for political advantage’ has come amidst mounting criticism for Indian media, particularly TV, for its lack of credibility.

TV channels have earned wide condemnation on social media platforms for turning their decision to convert their studios into war rooms, thereby promoting war-mongering and throwing impartiality out of the window.

Journalist Swati Chaturvedi said that the present situation was indicative of just how low the journalism had reached in India.

She said, “The TV channels have reached a nadir in India. Journalists have mortgaged their professionalism and self respect to the ruling party. I’ve been a TV journalist for over two decades and never witnessed anything like this. The present day situation is simply too alarming. God save TV journalism in India.”

Curiously, a day after NDTV dropped Chidambaram’s interview, the BJP’s president, Amit Shah had congratulated the media fraternity for their contribution to the cause of nationalism on Friday. Indian media earned plenty of plaudits from Shah for exposing Pakistan-based terrorists and applauding the Modi government’s victory on ‘diplomatic fronts’ against the neighbouring country.

Shah, in his press conference broadcast uninterrupted live by almost all channels including NDTV, had appreciated media for taking those, who questioned the authenticity of surgical strikes, head on.

He said, “I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart.”

He condemned the BJP’s political rivals for questioning the authenticity of surgical strikes, promising to expose them before the people (read voters of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa). He, however, claimed that the BJP was against politicising the issue.

Shah’s comments on politicisation of surgical strikes came on a day when 82% respondents on www.jantakareporter.com felt that it was the BJP and not Congress or AAP, which had politicised the military operation across the LoC.

Shah had come under blistering attack from his political rivals particularly by AAP, which questioned why no reporter could muster courage to question the BJP president on the surfacing of his name in the suicide note of BK Bansal.

Social media users have been busy condemning NDTV over the latest episode of ‘unethical journalism.’ Many are simply not able to believe that a channel as reputed as NDTV too could fall victim to the alleged pressure tactics by the ruling establishment.

Here are some reactions;