Oppn bloc’s yet another self-goal

The recent decision of the sub-committee on media of the 28 Opposition parties’ Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.) bloc to boycott some TV news anchors exposes its growing ‘intolerance’ in facing tough questions.

The blocked anchors include; Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV; Rubika Liyaquat, anchor at Bharat24; Sudhir Chaudhary, Chitra Tripathi, Gaurav Sawant and Shiv Aroor of Indians Today-Aaj Tak network; Navika Kumar, group editor at Times Network; Sushanta Sinha, anchor at Times Now; Aman Chopra, Amish Devgan and Anand Narasimhan of CNN-News18, Prachi Parashar of India TV; Aditi Tyagi of Bharat Express and Ashok Shrivastav, anchor at DD News.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, who is also facing some defamation suits filed against him by his political opponents, released the list, and said, “Today, we took a decision. Some anchors have been marked and their shows and events will be boycotted. We do not want to legitimize this hate-filled narrative which is corroding our society.”

“You make headlines against our leaders, make memes, twist their speeches, spread fake news but we are ready to fight against that. But if you spread hatred in the society which takes the form of violence, we don’t want to be a part of that,” he added.

The News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) also expressed concern over the I.N.D.I.A. bloc’s decision to not send their representatives to the shows and events hosted by these journalists.

“The decision taken by the I.N.D.I.A. Media Committee sets a dangerous precedent,” NBDA said in a statement. The association said that the ban “goes against the ethos of democracy” and is a sign of “intolerance”.

The NBDA urged the Opposition alliance to withdraw its decision as it would amount to “browbeating journalists and stifling freedom of speech and expression of the media”.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized the Congress party over the move, saying the party has a history of bullying the media. In a post on X, BJP president JP Nadda said, “The history of Congress has many instances of bullying the media and silencing those with differing views. Pandit Nehru curtailed free speech and arrested those who criticized him. Indiraji remains the Gold Medal winner of How to do it – called for a committed judiciary, committed bureaucracy, and imposed the horrific Emergency.

Rajiv ji tried to bring the media under state control but failed miserably. Soniaji-led UPA was banning social media handles simply because Congress did not like their views.”

Ironically, quite often, the uncrowned prince of the Congress dynast Rahul Gandhi goes abroad and makes baseless allegations over suppression of freedom of speech by the Narendra Modi government. I wonder, don’t the anchors who are also citizens of India enjoy the same freedom to ask questions that they feel deserve to, in the interests of the nation?

Everywhere, on social media, now it is being compared to the way the voices of journalists were suppressed during the Emergency. Supporters of some of the parties in the I.N.D.I A. bloc are openly threatening the journalists on this list with jail or being told to be ready for ‘treatment’. Will journalists in this country now receive such open threats?

In my view as a senior journalist, who is facing similar threats from the two state ruling party chief ministers, feel such acts by parties are nothing short of intimidation. Certainly I not boycotting journalists, but running away from questions as cowards or incompetents. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party or for that matter several regional satraps like the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, Bharat Rashtra Samiti and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, are used to dealing with yes-men. Many feel that if the I.N.D.I.A. bloc dares to ban, it should block those who are serving hatred in a market of love. These Mohabbat ke dukan chalaane wale are only serving twisted hatred, in my view.

Perhaps, Shehzad Poonawala’s statement appears more sensible as he says: ”the alliance, which prides itself in the fact that it is there to save the Constitution, appears doesn’t reflect the values of tolerance”. Instead, he felt the Opposition bloc must take action against those who within them are speaking against Hinduism, like Udhayanidhi Stalin and Priyank Kharge and the likes of people from the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal. Otherwise, their boycotting journalists only showcase how they are determined to divide and rule the media. And, if the I.N.D.I.A. bloc continues to pursue the same line, I fear like many, they may have to face the wrath of the electorate in upcoming polls for sure.