So Chyetanya Kunte is the latest victim of media intimidation. I’m not going to rehash the same excellent points made by other bloggers. Here’s a partial list:
NDTVâ€™s Assault on Free Speech (the best)
- When â€˜free speechâ€™ bears a price tag
- Shame on NDTV and Barkha Dutt
- A bedtime story about blog freedom
- Throw the Constitution Away
The Indian media–specifically, television ranks at the top for its King-sized conceit. It bulldozes its way into people’s tragedies and increasingly, sees itself as the final arbiter of national justice. Its anchors assault the ears 24/7 with nothing but meaningless shrillery under the illusion that loudness=news. Its talk shows are crude exercises in self-aggrandizement. However, all these traits don’t even measure up to even a knee-length of Barkha Dutt epitomizes. There’s no better proof for this than the fact that a Facebook Group (Can u please take BARKHA off air!) is dedicated to her. It is by far one of the most popular groups there with over 4500 members and about 900 posts in just over a month!
Barkha Dutt owes her heady taste of fame to her “reporting” during the Kargil war. Ignoring the controversy surrounding her actual role in the reporting, she was made out to be a bigger hero than the valiant soldiers that fought in the war. I recall reading some review that Preity Zinta’s unconvincing histrionics in Lakshya was modelled after Barkha. However, for Barkha, there was no looking back after Kargil. Today she stands almost unchallenged in both fame and skill at compensating incompetence with loudmouthedness. She spins self-righteous yarns about free speech and media-professional hazards when her nonchalant reporting style is criticized. You tend to normally ignore such yarn because she has to defend her actions, etc. But then, you should sit up and give it back when she goes beyond that. In a shocking display of arrogance and strong-arm tactics, she has threatened legal action against blogger Chyetanya Kunte for voicing his opinion about her “shoddy journalism” which is what her antics on 26/11 were. Chyetanya was forced to take down his post thanks to NDTV’s threat.
Neither is this the first instance. Remember Mediaah, which was shut down thanks to a similar legal threat by TOI (aside: read an excellent piece on the whole episode). Or the infamous IIPM online hooliganism that threatened to choke Rashmi Bansal’s (also Gaurav Sabnis’) right to freedom of speech? Despite all this, the Indian media just doesn’t get it. Here’s the thing beautifully articulated:
The success of [The Times'] case depends wholly on the hope that Maheshwari will not fight back against a gargantuan media conglomerate,” said Rohit Gupta, a freelance writer and engineer in Mumbai. “That’s where the Times of India reveals its ignorance of changing times and the nature of the blogosphere. Maheshwari does not need to fight this himself — this concerns the freedom of all bloggers from Indian origin, so we will fight the battle for him.”[...] “The Times of India has simply shown how far they’ve come from being a respectable newspaper to being a common school bully. If bloggers can collaborate to provide humanitarian assistance for the greatest natural disaster the living world has seen, they can certainly tackle the Times of India, a man-made ethical disaster.
Which takes us back to the same question: why do they hate us so much? From India Today to TOI to Outlook and now NDTV, the media has on numerous occasions ranted against bloggers with undisguised contempt, which stems from their appalling ignorance of what blogging is all about. Their typical terms for bloggers: brash, 20-something, angry, furious, seething, venting, cyber-Cinderellas, pretentious, and the like. Is this because they feel somehow threatened? Or is it because some bloggers write far better prose, articulate opinions way better than many so-called mainstream observers and columnists? Or is it because bloggers are unconstrained by word-limit, editorial stance, or business interests? For all their ire against bloggers, the media doesn’t hesitate to steal content from bloggers. Here’s a lovely post that chronicles this plagiarism (scroll down till you reach this: Indian Media Plagiarizing from Bloggers [or, bloggers highlighting cases of MSM misdeeds]). TOI leads the pack in this plagiarism, the selfsame TOI that sent the self-righteous legal notice to Mediaah didn’t seem to examine the crap in its own backyard. There’s yet another angle to this. In the breath that they rant against bloggers, most of these media houses have their own blogs, or have set up a blog service on their sites–TOI, IBN, Indian Express, and the now-defunct blog service from NDTV. The main reason I think, for the Indian media’s angst against the blogsphere is the fact that till blogging caught popular imagination, media houses were used to their monopoly over news and opinion–they were virtually unchallenged–any “letters to the editor” that didn’t toe their byline were simply not published. Now that bloggers on a colossal scale have begun to call their bluff, their fragile sensibilities have taken a severe blow. While they strut around invading people’s privacy, and making grand pronouncements at random on everybody, they need to understand that freedom of speech is not their exclusive privilege.Â People will exercise the same right upon them. Patrix puts it beautifully:
When the reporter becomes the reported, it is usually time to take a closer look at your life and wonder what happened.
However, if bloggers can sit alone at their keyboards, type out their honest opinions, and network with each other on noble causes, they can also fight back against such strong-arm tactics. In this, they’re far more courageous than the media, which infamously crawled when asked to bend. I’m sorry, but Barkha Dutt and her NDTV team cannot gag my right to free speech on the pretext of protecting her right to free speech. If I don’t like a newspaper, I won’t buy it and I’ll say why I don’t like it. The newspaper cannot sue me for that. While we’re on the subject, since NDTV is listed on the Stock Exchange, how about selling its shares if you have bought any?
What’s next, Barkha Dutt and NDTV, are you going to sue the entire Indian blogsphere, and Facebook?
Crossposted on Desicritics.