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Mediafile (January 2011)


This was my column in Himal Southasian while I was the web editor there. This edition was my last installment. *shniffles* For the complete list with contributions from all the other eds, go here (go ahead, click! Its worth it!).

Mediafile

Almost a month after Open Magazine’s explosive exposé, the Radia-media battle is far from over. While the first set of tapes implicated known journalists, including Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, Outlook has just posted 800 new tapes, sending jitters along the spines of the high and mighty of the Indian media.

Right after the first set of tapes was released, the entire Big Media legion in India zipped their lips, with nary a peep from even commentators who are all fire and brimstone every time a government official or any non-media person for that matter is implicated even remotely in some vague wrongdoing. Great show of ‘solidarity’, people! Nothing must come in the way of ad revenue, no?

NDTV, meanwhile, had set up a debate (read: desperate face-saving measure) in their studios, and to say that Dutt bungled it up big-time would be an understatement. Her protestations about fibbing Niira Radia off might have been believable, had she not behaved like the goddess of ‘political journalism’ and shot her mouth off constantly. Her attempt at using the ‘misogyny card’ really, REALLY got to Chhetria Patrakar. Ma’am, while there might well be some element of schadenfreude and even misogyny in the discourse surrounding the entire episode, the four people in your studio during this particular debate were being nothing but polite guests who were asking perfectly reasonable questions – very politely. Open Magazine Editor Manu Joseph, meanwhile, came out a true rockstar (except for the sorry little sexist quip right at the very end), and CP has unabashedly had a major crush on him since. *hem*

Also, one question for Dutt: if the Radia tapes were unacceptable ‘raw material’, why does NDTV choose to give so much airtime to other ‘raw material’, say, WikiLeaks?

Sanghvi, on the other hand, has reportedly been demoted, but he claims that the change in position had nothing to do with ‘Radiagate’. He is currently regaling readers with inane food-related tweets from exotic locations. Okay, lame joke time: If ‘Radiagate’ refers to the Radia tapes; and ‘Cablegate’ refers to the Wikileaks disclosures; does churchgate refer to church officials and *cough*inappropriate touching*cough*? (Yes, CP stole this joke from the Faking News facebook page.) And here’s another joke: so, are you from the media or The Radia? *snicker*

***

Not to be outdone, media houses in Pakistan also went cuckoo in their own special way (but of course!). A few days after the first Wikileaks cables were released and the Real Powers-that-be in Pakistan (read: the General Headquarters or GHQ in Rawalpindi) had gone into damage control overdrive, major newspapers and TV channels carried suspicious-sounding reports which would have made any rabid, ultranationalist hatemonger’s wet dreams come true. The reports were given pride of place in the extreme-rightwing Nawa-e-Waqt group’s Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt and English The Nation; Dunya TV; Aaj TV; and even the IHT-backed Express Tribune and the same group’s Urdu daily, Express. The Jang Group also held Aman ki Asha in abeyance and jumped on to the bandwagon, with its Urdu daily Jang, English daily The News and TV channel Geo News reporting that US diplomats had referred to India’s army chief as an inept geek; and had said that India had a major role in terrorism in Waziristan and the nationalist unrest in Balochistan; and that, India’s army high-command had ‘close ties’ to the saffron brigade; and that, Pakistan’s chief of army staff’s tenure extension was welcome; AND that, the ISI chief smelled like roses. Okay, so CP made the last one up, but what difference does it make?

Now, one would think that any news editor with her or his head screwed on right would have smelled a geranium — that is, a ‘plant’ — but those at the afore-mentioned media houses were apparently suffering from clogged noses that night. It took a media blog, Café Pyala, to first call out shenanigans, followed by The Guardian’s Declan Walsh. The next day, Express Tribune carried a ‘profuse’ apology, while The News pointed fingers at ‘Online’, the wire news agency that had allegedly forwarded the report. The Daily Jang carried a half-hearted ‘retraction’ by translating half of Walsh’s piece from The Guardian. The Nation, meanwhile, unabashedly editorialised the report, claiming that it had thus ‘caught the evil HinJews with their pants down’ (okay, so they didn’t use the same words, but CP had to summarise). The Nation’s website was later hacked, allegedly by some people from India, and words in the editorial were changed – in sum, hilarity ensued.

For those of you who’re wondering where all this came from, look no further than the boys in Spookesville. Last month, CP had called out shenanigans regarding some Spookes-run ‘news’ websites, such as the ‘Daily Mail Pakistan’. The month before that, the same website was the source of ‘news’ (also picked up by major media houses in the country) claiming that RAW was involved in the entire cricket betting scandal and that, Mazhar Majeed was a RAW agent. This month, it turns out that the ‘Daily Mail Pakistan’ was the first ones to ‘plant’ the fake Wikileaks story which Online picked up. The Daily Mail ‘editor-in-chief’ later patted himself on the back for a job well done (faking leaked cables is a lot of effort!) with claims such as how India’s establishment is not as ‘milk-washed’ as the liberal, beghaerat bloggers of Pakistan would have us believe. Oh sir, CP’s heart garden-gardens at your display of patriotism, and if facts have to be fudged in the process, well what goes of anyone’s father?

One head – that of Online’s editor – has rolled, meanwhile, but CP is pained to see that those of the other news editors concerned are still firmly connected to their shoulders… and grinning.

***

The mainstream media in Bangladesh, on the other hand, has taken to blacking out all reports of unrest amongst garment industry workers. One wonders what the media wallahs will do when the violence escalates [further] – a couple of people are dead already (protestors who were shot at by police), but who cares about the poor, right? As long as the gods of ad revenue are protected, aal izz well!

***

On a side-note, HOLY SAFFRON! The Bharti Janata Party (BJP) might be launching a TV channel soon! BJP supremo G Kishan Reddy told the media, however, that the ‘TV news channel’ would ‘not be the mouthpiece of the BJP’, and that, its ‘agenda’ will merely be ‘in sync’ with that of the party ‘to a large extent’. *phew* And here CP thought that the sole aim of the channel would be to provide ‘favourable coverage’ for the saffron brigade’s ‘agenda’… Oh wait… Shit, we’re all doomed!

~ Chhetria Patrakar

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  1. Chris Cork
    January 5, 2011 at 18:22

    You owe me for ‘geranium’. :) :)

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