In his sharpest attack yet on the media fraternity, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused certain news organisations of accepting a contract to finish off the Aam Aadm Party (AAP). The chief minister also called for a “public trial” of certain media groups to expose their blatant bias. In response to Kejriwal’s attack, many in the media have gone into overdrive to defend themselves. However, the manner in which a large section of the media had tied itself up in knots over the issue was embarrassing. An unfortunate line of argument put forward by some in the media fraternity has been that they were responsible for the extensive coverage AAP received during the anti-corruption movement in 2013, following which the party formed its first government in Delhi. A follow up to that argument goes to the extent of, “We made you and now you question our sense ethics?” As certain observers have pointed out, the decision of some in the media to follow such a line of argument incriminates themselves more than anyone else. The media’s main concern should not lie with making or breaking people or political entities. If some in the media claim that they made him, then Kejriwal’s contention that some are trying to break him seems reasonable. Unfortunately the argument put forward by the media reflects hubris of the worst kind. Elections since time immemorial have proven that the media is merely a force-multiplier and not a force in itself, when it comes to determining poll results. Short term memory is a malaise that seems to afflict some in the media. It was only in February that the AAP won 67 out 70 seats in the Delhi assembly elections, despite the overwhelmingly negative media coverage it received.
To Kejriwal’s credit, he was careful to state that ‘a large section of it (media)’ was involved in maligning the party. It is clear that the Delhi chief minister did not seek to treat the media as a homogenous entity, guided by a uniform desire to tarnish the party’s reputation. Many in the media, however, slipped over this remark and its reaction is only emblematic of Kejriwal’s criticisms. Besides, the Delhi chief minister does have a point about the blatant bias prevalent in a few media houses against the party. In the past few days, the party has been inundated with accusations that one of its senior leaders Kumar Vishwas had an illicit affair with a party volunteer. Although a video had surfaced, where an erstwhile Congress leader was seen instructing the ‘victim’ on what she should say to the press, some channels continued to relay the news without examining the possibility of a political conspiracy. In fact many news channels ran the story that Kumar had an illicit relationship with the woman. Another instance of blatant bias emerged a few days ago, when another tape surfaced of various television channels surrounding the tragic death of farmer Gajendra Singh at an AAP rally in the national capital. The tape reportedly insinuated that Kumar Vishwas was heard saying “latak gaya” (he has hung himself) with much glee. It was later discovered that the tape was tampered with and that it was not Vishwas’s voice. No channel had come forward to issues an apology.
Admittedly, Kejriwal’s desire to hold a “public trial” is ridiculous. At best, it seems like a cry for help in the face of a relentless media onslaught. However, what the Delhi chief minister has done is hold a mirror to large sections of the media of their failings as objective journalists. In hindsight, the media should have introspected a lot more instead of defending the indefensible and wasting precious air time.