“Negative coverage for more TRP”
In the face of mounting criticism of the functioning of the West Bengal government in various spheres, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday lashed out at the media, declaring, “If I am attacked, I can counter-attack.”
Accusing the media of practising “blackmail,” and “yellow journalism,” “instigating riots among Hindus and Muslims” and “setting houses on fire,” Ms. Banerjee said, “Whatever is written in certain newspapers is a lie.”
“Without any reason or purpose, they have to be negative in their coverage. Why? Because it will mean more TRP (television rating points),” she said at the launch here of Kalam, a Bengali weekly catering for the interests of the minority community, as a daily.
Kalam created a stir when it was included in the list of newspapers allowed for readers in public libraries — a move for which the Trinamool Congress-led government attracted wide criticism.
Ms. Banerjee said the comparison made in some quarters that the government decision was akin to “censorship” was nothing but “crying wolf.”
“Haven't they heard about what happened to the boy who cried wolf? One day the beast will come for real.”
The Chief Minister said, “I cannot impose or bulldoze my decisions on you; you cannot impose or bulldoze me,” emphasising “it is my prerogative” to make government appointments.
Just as she could not dictate who should occupy which post in a newspaper office, it was for the government to decide who would perform better in which government appointment, Ms. Banerjee said in a remark that may be construed as a response to the front-page coverage of the transfer of Damayanti Sen, Joint Commissioner (Crime) of the city police, who contradicted the Chief Minister's remarks about the alleged rape of a 37-year-old woman while conducting investigations.
“If I make any mistakes, you can certainly point them out. But if you believe that you can blackmail me, then I will not allow it,” Ms. Banerjee added.
In the first 10 months of its coming to power, the Trinamool Congress-led government has faced severe criticism on several fronts, including a high incidence of crib deaths, farmer suicides and rapes as well as the volatile relationship between the Trinamool and the Congress at the Centre.
While the government has issued denials on nearly each of these, Ms. Banerjee accused journalists of not cross-checking their facts before reporting them. She cited reports of her mother's death even before she actually died.
“For the sake of TRP ratings they reported that my mother had died. Is wishing for death their only work?”
Ms. Banerjee also said the media had remained oblivious to the flaws of the Left Front government, failing to report its shortcomings during its 34-year-long rule.