“Gandhi was the most liberal man on Indian soil. He never wanted a big state. A big state is always harmful to its citizens. Media today has become subordinate to politicians. Current situation of media is not crisis but it is catastrophe,” Sagarika Ghose, a renowned journalist, writer and novelist spoke in a lecture organised by Bihar Collective today here in Patna.
Hitting out equally at Congress she said, “Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, originally a Congressman and colleague of Jawaharlal Nehru who later quit Congress to found Bharatiya Jan Sangh, suggested to Nehru to abolish Article 19 that imposes restrictions on Media which Nehru turned down saying reasonable restrictions on media were necessary.
“Congress was also not friendly with journalists. B. G. Verghese was expelled from his job because he wrote against Sanjay Gandhi during emergency. However, the current government is highly uneasy with journalists. The relationship between journalists and government is very uneasy,” Ghose said.
“Indira and Rajiv both represented powerful governments but government led by Narendra Modi is a combination of religion and majority. Narendra Modi represents religious majoritarianism which is difficult to handle,” she said.
In this era, if you are highly critical you cannot remain inaccessible to many avenues and even lose your job. And this is with not only Modi government but so many state governments as well, even with the Trinamool government in West Bengal, and governments in Tamil Nadu and Bihar also.
Talking on present day threats with journalists she said journalists who talk against the government are called anti nationals, presstitutes, urban naxals, tukde tukde gang et cetra. She said “If you think journalists are anti nationals then where will journalist go?”
“Either journalists are enemies or lapdogs of the authority today,” she said.
“We are agent of citizens. We are their ears and eyes. A citizen has a right to know otherwise a citizen is not a citizen, he or she is a consumer. We are like cockroach in the system. When we become butterfly we are not journalist. Journalist must be agent to citizens,” she stressed while speaking on duty of a journalist.
Speaking on 2019 election campaigns of the BJP, she said, in the entire election campaign opposition was made invisible. And this happened because government had monopoly over media.
She said “Narendra Modi is a fantastic communicator. No previous Prime Minister has been so. He was controlling narrative during his interviews. He was in the driving seat during all his interviews. He gave interview to Akshay Kumar who himself is a khiladi. It was a beautifully choreographed interview. He gave his interview to a wire service ANI which was picked up all big and small media houses.”
On being neutrality of a journalist, she asked if a person could be neutral with criminal and victim both. “Should we have looked at Nazi point of view and those who were kept in concentration camps? Should we have no moral responsibility for constitutional values? If we start showing both sides equally what truth we will show?” she asked.
Pointing some media houses and their anchors, she said news vendors are actually promoting communal disharmony and urged people to stop watching news. “Media seems to have vested interests in riots,” she said.
Concluding her lecture, she said “We are in an era of illiberal democracy and this illiberal democracy is in different parts of the world – in America, Poland, Turkey, Israel, India and so on.
She suggested to the audience to leave worshiping power, raise voice, talk to people, create forums, get collective.
Quoting Baba Saheb Ambedkar she said “Ambedkarji used to say that Bhakti leads to illiberal democracy and therefore we should stop bhakti and raise our voice for freedom which is fundamental to our constitution.”