Selective priorities of Editors’ Guild

Guild must stand by journalists consistently

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s description of the editor of ANI who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a ‘’pliable’’ journalist created a controversy. The Editors’ Guild of India criticised Rahul Gandhi for ‘’shooting the messenger’’. Journalists have been criticised in the past for various reasons. Some of them are right and legitimate and many others not so. They have even been regularly abused and called ‘’presstitutes’’. If the Modi interview is seen and heard in its entirety and if the journalist’s conduct of it is considered, it will be clear that the criticism is not misplaced. The PM answered the questions posed to him, but the interview actually raised questions about how to conduct an interview with the prime minister, or with any person. Modi has held five interviews in the last five years, and each time, he has said what he wanted to without being challenged by his interviewers. In the latest interview also, Modi was not probed on any issue. His answers went unchallenged. It has even been described as an interview in which he answered his own questions. Rahul Gandhi may have had this in mind when he made the comment.

The Editors’ Guild, led by Shekhar Gupta, has said that labelling of journalists was not acceptable. But the comment should be taken as legitimate criticism, and journalists should be ready to face it. Is ‘’pliable’’ worse than ‘’presstitutes’’ and ‘’bazaaru log’’, the terms used for journalists by union minister and former army chief Gen VK Singh and Modi himself, respectively? The Guild was not so prompt and strong in its condemnation of the use of these phrases as it was in the case of Rahul Gandhi’s comment. It should also be noted that the concern of the Guild top brass is not supported by its executive council. The Guild did not express similar concern when journalist Kishorechandra Wangkem was jailed for one year under the draconian National Security Act by the Manipur government. When Right-wing elements attacked journalists at Sabarimala, the Guild was expected to stand by them. It should not be selective in its concerns and outrage.   

Modi has never held a press conference after he became PM. Through the forums that he uses to communicate, he has only talked ‘to’ the people, rather than have a two-way conversation. The essence of democracy lies in such conversation. A leader, especially one who holds a public office, and in this case the top office in the country, should allow himself to be questioned and scrutinised closely by the people. In a press conference, a leader faces a diversity of questions from different journalists. In a real interview, the interviewer gets the chance to ask questions that arise from the leader’s answers.

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