Ashadh Krushna Shashthi, Kaliyug Varsha 5114
Chauthi Duniya accessed some documents that lifted the lid off the Pandora’s box of Indian journalism. Some well known names of Indian journalism will be shamed with what has come to light. These documents reveal not only that these mediapersons put journalism to shame but have also sullied their hands with the blood of Indian democracy even while it was being murdered by some very powerful forces.
These incriminating documents prove that some of the so-called pillars of Indian journalism buttressed the draconian policies of the government during Emergency and also charged a fee! In this article we are publishing the names of these renowned practitioners of journalism along with the names of the newspapers they worked for and the amount of money they took from the government. Some of them are alive and at the peak of their careers while others have departed. But to not name the latter would be injustice to our sources – the documents of state itself – and we have, therefore, decided to publish all the names.
The drama that will unfold here refers to the dark days of Indian democracy, when on 26 June 1975, Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of the country clamped Emergency in India. The Constitution was suspended and all those who were even felt to be detractors of the government were interned which included not just the leaders of the Opposition but a plethora of journalists as well. And this fate befell all those who tried to raise their voices in favour of constitutional rights and democracy. A stifling censorship was imposed upon all the publications in the country. Doordarshan became the mouthpiece of the government and proved to be the most effective propaganda machine. To justify, not explain, and to brand all opposition as treason was the main occupation of Doordarshan. All the programmes were aimed at disseminating false (read pro-government) information and to discredit all criticism that came, mainly from journalists. Many among the latter were fighting against the atrocities of Emergency, but some also chose to buckle down before the government.
The billion rupee question: who were those journalists who were sitting in the studios of Doordarshan and misleading the people?When Doordarshan had become the mouthpiece of tyranny and when other media houses were reeling under censorship of the worst kind, would anybody sitting in the studios of Doordarshan be sitting there to critique the actions of the government? Also, why did the people who were the foundations of the fourth estate at that time, lend themselves to be apologists of totalitarianism?
During the Emergency it was the unambiguous policy of Doordarshan to popularise the Twenty- and Five-Point Programmes of the Indira Gandhi government by disseminating false information and spreading canards. For this purpose Doordarshan used to call journalists – making them say what the government wanted the people to believe. Journalistic voices, the ostensible neutrality and pro-people nature of the profession were used to lend credence to the discourse of falsity that the Emergency was. These documents from the Directorate General of Doordarshan carry the names of these journalists, their newspapers and the remuneration that they got for serving the government in the aforesaid fashion.
The most shocking faces on Doordarshan were those who are considered journalists of the highest order today. Names like Dilip Padgaonkar of the Times of India appeared no less than 7 times, justifying government policies. Later, he went on to become the Editor of the Times of India newspaper. Even today he remains one of the trusted journos of the UPA government. Others like S. Swaminathan Aiyyar of The Times of India, Akshaya Kumar Jain of Navbharat Times, Balraj Mehta of The Indian Express, Gautam Gupta of The Business Standard and G.S. Chawla of Pratap newspaper also joined the bandwagon. Sumer Kaul of The Indian Express appeared 20 times on behalf of the government and received 2000 rupees for rendering his services. Then comes Mr. P. Sharma of The Statesman who appeared 11 times to advocate the cause of the Indira government. He got 1100 rupees. Chetan Chaddha of The Indian Express and G.S. Bhargava of Hindustan Times stand tied at 8 appearances and received 800 rupees each. Also, there were two more journalists who were booked by Doordarshan for a fixed programme; they appeared fortnightly. They were Mahavir Adhikari and Sarika K. Kamaleshwar of Navbharat Times. The documents do not aver how much money they got in exchange for their expertise. G.P. Bhatnagar was the most visible face on Doordarshan during Emergency. He appeared 21 times in favour of the government and received 2100 rupees for rendering his services. Second to him was Satya Suman of Samachar Akhbar who appeared 9 times and got 900 rupees. The sums of money that these people got might appear meagre today but 37 years ago in 1975 when Emergency was imposed, it was substantial.
Journalism and Democracy are complementary phenomena. There is no scope for freedom of press without genuine democracy and without a free press no democracy can claim to be genuine. During the Indian National Movement the erstwhile freedom fighters had made journalism one of the most potent weapons to fight colonialism. Given this legacy and heritage, journalism without a true concern for people and without the realization of one’s responsibilities is nothing short of farce. Fighting against all forms of exploitative structures is the true essence of journalism. When Indira Gandhi slapped Emergency and suspended democracy it was the duty of every journalist to wage a relentless protest against it. Instead the above mentioned did the opposite. Instead of fighting for restoration of democracy they became the spokespersons of the Congress party and received money too!
The accessed documents have exposed the underbelly of journalism and locate the genesis of the degeneration in journalism that has become so very evident today. These documents are only an introduction to the full text of moral turpitude in journalism. As a result, not just governments but journalism and the media itself stand accused of corruption: the erosion of their legitimacy has been complete. People have started looking at news media as just another facilitator of dominant and entrenched interests. And why not; the people start questioning the legitimacy and veracity of reportage once mediapersons are found to have foundered.
Today big journalists have become big middlemen and the trend has been followed by small time journalists as well.Paid news and advertorials have become a standard and, unfortunately, a standard practice too. In small towns and cities journalists have become extortionists using threats and blackmail.
They also play an active role in the transfer and posting of government officials. The nature of newspapers and television channels that surfaces during elections is nothing short of prostitution. But where the provenance of all these malpractices and trends lies is clarified by accessed documents. As of today there is no dearth of such journalists who make all kinds of arguments to hide the wrong doings of governments, so much so, that they are ready to even muzzle the voices raised against corruption. This is a sad and sordid state of affairs and these trends have once again endangered democracy. If the integrity and legitimacy of journalism depletes with the same pace as that of the political class then saving democracy will become a Herculean task. We may perhaps be sitting and crying over spilled milk.
Source : CH