OPINION
NOW SHOUT: “HEY MODI JI, HOW ARE YOU? AND….”
He walked into a newspaper office and shot dead five journalists; So you should now shout a question to Modi
- S Pal
He walked into a newspaper office and shot dead five journalists; So you should now shout a question to Modi



"Media bik chukka hai.” From Donald Trump’s fake media narrative to the discourse in India that sweeps aside all discerning faculties and tells people that they are being served by "godi media,” the game in town is media bashing. It’s one intersection where even two unlikely characters embrace each other — Trump and news anchor Ravish Kumar, that messiah of all that is truthful.

"Ab ek hee patarkaar bacha hai jee,” enthusiastic readers sometimes proclaim with a sigh, a few of them journalists themselves.

It’s not clear if Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, would have translated the Hindi phrase "godi media” as lapdog hacks or embedded journalists, but he certainly couldn’t have been convinced to abort his nefarious Thursday plan by such a narrative. He couldn’t be bothered with writing letters to the editor, or staging a protest sit-in in front of the newspaper he did not like.

He just walked inside and shot dead five journalists — Gerald Fischman, 61, the newsroom’s editorial page editor; Rob Hiaasen, 59, an editor and features columnist; John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter and editor for the local weekly papers; Wendi Winters, 65, a local news reporter and community columnist; and Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant.

Ramos ran out of bullets and reloaded his weapon. Clearly, he wanted to solve his problem more fully.

But on this platform, we do not report to our readers about what happens in Maryland’s capital, even if it happens inside a newspaper office in Annapolis. A lot of websites and newspaper headlines would have already informed you of all that.

We are on a different point. Soon after the dead were identified, President Donald Trump found himself walking past a gaggle of journalists. This was a president who has always opposed gun control, catered to his base with the vilest language against opponents and whose anti-media rhetoric makes him a complicit in creating an environment of extreme hatred and divisiveness.
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Lest the future generations say that questions were not asked, these questions must be shouted across the lawns, over the din of the helicopter blades whirring, over the noise of ecstatic crowds worshipping a bearded man by chanting his name thrice in a row, exclamation marks thrown in.
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As President Trump walked past, this is what he had to brave:

"Mr President, do you comment on the shooting?"

"Mr President, you aren't reacting to the shooting in Annapolis?"

"Mr President, why will you keep talking about enemies of the people?"

"Why are you walking away?"

"Why won't you come and talk to us about that?"
 
 
President Trump may be the commander in chief of the mighty army, navy and air force armada of the United States of America, but he isn't strong enough to stop the shots fired by dedicated women and men in newsrooms. Protected by the First Amendment, they do their job on a day as sad as Thursday in America.

 
Watch the video of Trump walking past these reporters who you cannot see in the frame, but whose voices you can clearlhear. This is your voice. This is the voice of a liberal or a conservative American citizen. This is the voice of anyone pained at what happened.

Now, ask yourself if you can imagine a gaggle of Indian reporters shooting and shouting questions at Narendra Modi in such a vociferous voice? Narendra Modi does not face the media. He has not held a single press conference. He handpicks journalists he chooses to be interviewed by. His choices also include Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary.

In such circumstances, how important does it become to ask Prime Minister Modi questions? Lest the future generations say that questions were not asked, these questions must be shouted across the lawns, across the road, over the din of the helicopter blades whirring, over the noise of ecstatic crowds worshipping a bearded man by chanting his name thrice in a row, exclamation marks thrown in.

But do you think there is space enough in our public discourse that enables our journalists to shout these questions?
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The fact is that even in cases where politicians are not so inaccessible, is our media asking the right questions? (Let me ask that again, since I must ask the right question.) Is our media asking all the right questions?
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It is very easy to blame the media corps as a pusillanimous bunch. You can argue that our journalists are too chickenhearted to speak truth to power, that they are a cohort of gutless, lily-livered, timorous hacks who can't shout out to a prime minister passing a few feet away from them:

"Mr. Prime Minister, when will Najib come home?"

"Mr Modi, do you comment on what a man in Dadri can store in his fridge?"

"Mr Modi, how about fifteen thousand, if not fifteen lakh?"

"Mr Modi, why don't you take questions from the media?"

"Mr Modi, Sudhir Chaudhary?"

The fact is that even in cases where politicians are not so inaccessible, is our media asking the right questions? (Let me ask that again, since I must ask the right question.) Is our media asking all the right questions?
 
Have you heard a bunch of journalists grilling Parkash Singh Badal on his role in the days leading to, and after the Operation Blue Star even when the community marked the 34th anniversary of the tragic happenings? Did you see them shouting questions at the Badals as they walked by?
 
Did you see journalists shouting questions at CM Amarinder Singh about the exact role and position of Rana Gurjit Singh in the Congress party?
 
Did you hear voices of journalists not in the frame ever raising any question about the contribution of Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi to the social, economic, political, cultural, religious, educational or psychological health of Punjab that left the party with no other choice but to make him a minister in the Cabinet?

One of the easiest games in tough times is to indulge in media bashing.

That's not the game we are into.

Are journalists asking tough questions? Yes, every chance they get.
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Readers, if you yourself run into Sudhir Chaudharys of journalism, shout out the greetings. No, not, "Sir, how are you?” Use the more appropriate one: "Sir, why are you?”
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Are they doing their job in difficult circumstances? Please don't even ask; you have no idea how muzzling, muffling newsrooms and editors' cabins have already become.

Are they already a target of ire of the self-righteous outsiders? Yes, they are, and are we not adding to that?

We get that, and appreciate that. This is not about journalists.

This is about you, the readers.

Are you creating enough demand, putting enough pressure, pressing enough buttons, writing enough letters to the editor, sending enough messages around, making enough noise on your facebook account, forwarding this story to enough people?

Most importantly, are you resisting temptation to counter hate speech with more hate speech and refusing to indulge in media bashing of the liberals because they are not liberal enough and they are not shouting out the questions at the top of their voice when they are not heard?

These are tough times. Blasting journalists is like whacking your own ears. They open their mouth on your behalf. They ask questions because you are in a school or in an office or working on a project site or changing your baby's nappies and so you cannot be there in that press conference. If fear silences them, it is your voice being silenced.
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Are you creating enough demand, putting enough pressure, pressing enough buttons, writing enough letters to the editor, sending enough messages around, making enough noise on your facebook account, forwarding this story to enough people?
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Ask yourself why they do not shout out questions when they are not given the room to ask them nicely.

Do your part. They are doing theirs, to the best of their abilities.

Even when they know that someone can walk into the newsroom and solve his problem in a more direct fashion. Our newsrooms are not so well protected. In some sit Sudhir Chaudharys.

So shout out your question to journalists because they attend pressers but do not hold press conferences: "Sir, Madam, why don't you shout out some real questions?"

For example, you can ask the journalists to start shouting some simpler ones: "Sir, how are you? And how's your wife?"

Readers, if you yourself run into Sudhir Chaudharys of journalism, shout out the greetings. No, not, "Sir, how are you?” Use the more appropriate one: "Sir, why are you?”
 
(A version of this story was published on Friday, June 29, 2018 with a different headline. This is a re-touched version.- Ed)
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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