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Rajiv Tyagi death: Congress faults govt. for vicious TV debates

An undated photo of Congress leader Rajiv Tyagi.

An undated photo of Congress leader Rajiv Tyagi.  

The death of Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi moments after finishing a television show on Wednesday evening stirred up some party leaders to comment on media neutrality on Thursday.

Former Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Manish Tewari blamed the government for failing to maintain a ‘modicum of civility’, party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill wrote to I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar saying most TV debates “coerce spokespersons to surrender to a slanderous, defamatory and vicious atmosphere to feed the monster of sensationalism” and senior party leader Ahmed Patel took to Twitter to ask TV channel owners and editors to reflect on the nature of debates.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Tewari said, “Rajiv Tyagi's death should be a trigger for the Ministry to revisit their stand on these theatrics that pass off as prime time debates”.

The former Minister, who had been at the receiving end of media coverage during the anti-corruption movement led by activist Anna Hazare, claimed that “TV debates now resemble WWF wrestling matches”.

“What has happened in the last six years is a free flow of Hindi expletives on national TV. The I&B Ministry has failed in its responsibility as the licensor to maintain a modicum of civility which the programme and advertising code mandates”, he stated.

Mr. Patel tweeted, “It is high time TV channel owners, editors and anchors introspect on how some in the industry have reduced news debates into a meaningless, poisonous and potentially fatal activity. At times words can have the same impact as bullets”.

Party and media ties

The latest incident also brought into focus the Congress’s uneasy relationship with media channels since 2014 when the Narendra Modi government assumed office.

Post May 2019 Lok Sabha results, the Congress communication wing had banned its spokespersons and panellists for a year from taking part in any TV debates.

“The reason is very simple as media neutrality is now dead”, Congress communication head Randeep Surjewala told this reporter.

“In the last six years, the media has only been questioning the Congress and other Opposition parties instead of holding the government to account on issues such as failure in corona management, economy and unemployment, border hostility, demonetisation or a faulty GST. Today, 95 per cent of the media are Godi media [embedded] and we have reason to believe the government tells them to focus on polarising Hindu-Muslim issues as debate”, he said, justifying his earlier decision of boycotting TV debates.

In recent months, the Congress has come up with its own line up of aggressive TV panelists like Supriya Shrinate, Gourav Vallabh and Pawan Khera who come armed with “data and one-liners” to fight the ‘asymmetry’ of the debating panels.

Mumbai-based Sanjay Jha, who was removed as a Congress spokesperson recently, said, “The Congress should have never boycotted debates but been selective with TV channels and anchors and laid reasonable ground rules for participation. In a democracy, the media, no matter how flawed and faulty it is, cannot be totally ignored”.

“The BJP treats its spokespersons as brand-builders, who mould public opinion[most become Cabinet Ministers], but for the Congress, they are a mere appendage. The party treats political communication casually [Not a single spokespersons’ meeting or training programme was held in 6 years] and the top down high command culture makes spokespersons essentially survive on their own”, he added.

Mumbai-based Sanjay Jha, who was removed as a Congress spokesperson recently, said, “The Congress should have never boycotted debates but been selective with TV channels and anchors and laid reasonable ground rules for participation. In a democracy, the media, no matter how flawed and faulty it is, cannot be totally ignored”.

“The BJP treats its spokespersons as brand-builders, who mould public opinion [most become Cabinet Ministers], but for the Congress, they are a mere appendage. The party treats political communication casually [Not a single spokespersons’ meeting or training programme was held in 6 years] and the top down high command culture makes spokespersons essentially survive on their own”, he added.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 7:19:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rajiv-tyagi-death-congress-faults-govt-for-vicious-tv-debates/article32344131.ece

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