PM Narendra Modi questioned the ‘neutrality’ of the media in a recent interview with The Indian Express. Citing instances of when he felt unfairly targeted, Modi said, “Yeh jo do taraju hai na, mera neutrality se jhagda is baat ka hai (my quarrel is with the different scales of neutrality).”
ThePrint asks: Is Modi correct in saying media is biased against him in his pre-election interviews?
It is time journalists remove their tinted glasses and see Modi for the man and the PM he is
Assistant professor, Delhi University
As chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi sustained a double-digit growth rate and started several innovative schemes, but was never credited in the media.
In the last five years too, Modi started several schemes that benefitted crores of people but an unbiased evaluation of these schemes was missing from the op-ed pages of the Delhi print media, especially the English media.
A section of the elite media sees him as an ‘outsider’ and approaches him with a sense of ‘otherness’. This segment does not see Modi as its representative. They are allowed to have their personal beliefs, but the problem is that it gets reflected in their professional output. Modi is an elected leader and even if journalists are unable to relate to Modi, they are duty-bound to cast their personal bias aside when making a journalistic call.
If Narendra Modi govt has built national highways at double the pace than the last government, if it has built crores of toilets, transferred more than Rs 5 lakh crore in more than 450 schemes through direct benefit transfer, or if it is talking about Dalit venture capitalist fund, then why these issues do not get as much mention as they deserve? If these schemes were implemented effectively, the benefit must have reached people from all sections of the society.
If the media were to be believed, Modi’s austerity is for shutterbugs, his interminable work hours a source of fun, and his nationalism just for show. Perhaps, this media should not be believed. Or, perhaps, it is time journalists removed their tinted glasses and see Modi for the man and the prime minister he is.
Modi has reasons to be annoyed at some sections of media that have been less than fair to him
Marketing executive and political commentator
Like a good student, Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps the tough questions for the end. Thus, he waited until the end of the election campaign to speak to The Indian Express, whose reach he understands well. Therefore, his answers were not intended for the larger electorate but the set that has been consistently and stridently vocal against him – the Khan Market consensus as he called them.
No one can call The Indian Express’ editor “pliable” or that he shied away from asking tough questions. Therefore, the fault had to be found in the replies. Some senior journalists tweeted that Modi’s responses betrayed nervousness about impending defeat. On the contrary, general readers thought his combativeness was a sign of confidence.
Modi has reasons to be peeved with some sections of the media, which, he feels, have been less than fair to him. He is right that social media has exposed the personal biases and warts of many who could earlier get away under the editorial veil.
It is good that he has vented his angst. Instead of dismissing it as Modi playing the “victim” card, they would do well to take a break from the echo-chambers of Town Hall and Smoke-House Deli for a spot of introspection.
Clearly, Modi doesn’t watch or read news from platforms that are in love with him
Co-founder & CEO, Newslaundry
Of course, the media is biased. That is as obvious as saying the sun rises in the east. What is completely untrue is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that all media is biased against him.
Clearly, Modi doesn’t watch or read news from the platforms that are in love with him and whose representatives he is most warm and accessible to. His somewhat churlish complaint that too often pops up while interacting with non-fawning media, could be seen as a fair and “unbiased” observation under the following conditions: if each time Modi gave an interview to Times Now, Zee News, Republic or others from the Modi cheerleading squad, he complained to them too about always being pathetically servile and fawning and telling them he has a media cell and spokepersons to do the jobs they are doing; second, his conduct and accessibility were uniform across news media groups.
But since these things do not happen, I think it is a little sad that he always complains about hostile media (some of which does exist). The media is as biased or motivated as the conduct and the human values individuals subscribe to, which are not uniform.
Media looks biased to Modi because he thinks its job is to praise him all day long
Contributing editor, ThePrint
Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the media is biased against him is like the pot is calling the kettle black. The truth is the opposite. The media has largely become part of the Modi propaganda machine, a spoke in that wheel.
The problem is with Modi’s definition of bias. For Modi, the media’s job is to praise him all day and criticise the opposition all the time. For Modi, the media must not highlight his failures and mistakes but only that of the opposition.
Modi seeks to shift the blame on the media. It is the media’s fault that it scooped an unemployment report which the government didn’t want published. Highest unemployment rate in 45 years? Blame the data and if that doesn’t work, blame the media.
Narendra Modi has blamed the media forever, a trick practised by Right-wing politicians across the world to shoot the messenger and delegitimise all criticism and dissent.
Unfortunately for the Indian democracy, the media is all too willing to crawl when asked to bend. Sections of the media who remain independent clearly irritate the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. It is not good enough that so much of the media goes easy on criticising Modi.
The current state of the economy alone should have the media crying hoarse. But the media has lost its activist edge circa 2011. And yet for Modi, that’s not good enough. Modi demands complete subservience. Resistance is futile.
Modi’s criticism is another reminder for Indian media that nothing other than stenographers will be accepted
Trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi to complain of not having enough followers in media when the country is teeming with journalists who are falling over each other to mollycoddle and impress him. But this isn’t the first time Modi was heard registering such a complaint. Back in 2014, even before he became the PM, he said, “The media has taken upon itself the responsibility of spreading lies against me.” Five years and a plethora of fawning journalists later, Modi is still unhappy.
The Indian Express’ interview is a timely and important reminder for those media houses that try to uphold a faulty facade of “balance”. This government has made it clear time and again: nothing other than stenography and full compliance will do. Try to be even slightly critical of the BJP and you will be told off; your criticism will be quashed.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the entire media industry has lost its spine; some publications and houses have it intact and manage to find the courage to speak up. Sly remarks at tweets put out by journalists may seem like innocent virtue signalling and challenging faux neutrality, but it could also be read as intimidation. A seemingly gentle way of saying, “I see you”.
When asked to bend, many media persons choose to crawl — as is clear from the last five years of Indian media under the Modi regime. It is time to find that lost spine and speak truth to power.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.