After assuming office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has almost stopped interaction with media and journalist. On a brief level, it could be because of following two reasons:
- As we all know, media in our country is more interested in religious issues rather than real issues. PM Modi from his Gujarat CM days (or before his CM post) understood that most of the journalists are just pushing the agenda of Modi’s political opponents in portraying him as communal
- He is tired of all senseless allegations created from his statements which were totally out of context
Let’s go 2 decades back and understand the interaction of ‘Indian’ media with Narendra Modi.
- Before becoming Gujarat CM, Mr. Modi was the General Secretary of BJP.
- World Trade Center was destroyed by Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group, on 9th September, 2011 killing thousands of people.
- Two journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Siddharth Varadarajan (The Wire) were conducting a TV debate show “The Big Fight”.
- In that full show, the following major points might stand out:
- Mr. Modi repeats multiple times that “not all Islam is bad”, “there are many good facets of Islam” but he does not shy away from pointing the need to acknowledge that there are “sections” that use the concept of Islamic supremacy and intolerance towards other faiths to incite violence. He also pushes more on “pseudo-secularism” and its bad affects.
- Both the journalists started cutting him in the middle of his talk in an extremely bad tone throughout the debate
- Mr. Zakaria, who was representing Islamic perspective was referred as “Islamic scholar” by Mr. Modi; while they were calling Mr. Modi and his party for talking about hinduism as “Hindu Fundamentalists”.
You can watch that 30 minute debate here:
- The first time when Mr. Modi became CM of Gujarat as well as 2002 riots happened after burning 59 hindu pilgrims in Godhara.
- The attack happened on 27th Februrary, riots started on 28th February, and was controlled by 2nd March. Mr. Modi didn’t got any support from neighboring states viz. Rajasthan, Maharasthra, Madhya Pradesh. Also, lots of fake news from media personalities were peddling on.
- Rajdeep Sardesai was reporting from a small roadside temple which had natural stone idol (Hanuman). As it is quite common in hindu culture that stone idols are not symmetrical (perfect). He reported on television that the idol was damaged or moved from its place.
- Here, Rajdeep was indirectly extending an open invitation to Hindu rioters at a time when the whole state was burning because of communal clashes.
- Another journalist, Barkha Dutt was reporting from Surat. On live camera, she asked her cameraman to move the pan on both the sides of street to show that there was no police personal. Again indirect way to invite rioters to attack that area.
- Hence, Narendra Modi had to banned both of them and many more during riots including NDTV.
You can watch video here exposing these journalist.
- There was an event, Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, was going on. Narendra Modi was invited for a session. The topic of the session was “Imagine the India that can be” and the moderator/anchor was Rajdeep Sardesai.
- Mr. Modi says he has provided clean water by linking rivers to ALL citizens, not based on the cast and color, and also provided 24 by 7 electricity to thousands of villages and he works for EVERYONE in Gujarat.
- But, the anchor, Rajdeep, continuously pushing his agenda by asking questions on 2002, communal hatred and negativity.
- Finally, frustrated at Rajdeep’s one-point agenda, Mr. Modi says “not sure whose agenda this anchor is pushing but we are not talking about programme’s agenda”.
- Karan Thapar, a CNN-IBN journalist, was invited by Narendra Modi for interview.
- Now, Mr. Modi has been twice awarded “Most efficient Chief Minister” by India Today and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has declared Gujarat as “best administered state”, which was acknowledged by Mr. Karan Thapar.
- However, after initial 45 seconds, he doesn’t wanted to talk about Modi’s work but immediately moves on to
- bringing up various references as a “mass murdered” to Mr. Modi and having preconceived notion against Muslims.
- asking the same question, why couldn’t Mr. Modi apologize for 2002, “repeatedly”.
- It was clear that Thapar’s agenda was not to ask anything about development of state, he was trying to push Mr. Modi by asking apology and trying to prove him guilty for riots. Mr. Modi doesn’t succumb and chose to leave the interview
- Interestingly, as acknowledged by Thapar himself, Mr. Modi held no animosity against him, engaging him informally over snacks but just wasn’t interested in the interview anymore. [Ref]
3 minutes interaction with Mr. Modi with Thapar
- In another interview to ABP news, when Mr. Modi was trying to talk about work done by his government for “5 crore people of Gujarat” and about “125 crore Indians”
- the silly question from journalist, “does that include Muslims also?”
- Mr. Modi was visibly upset and repeats that his work for “people of his state” – he just didn’t wanted to himself dragged into such low level with journalist.
You can watch the video here:
- Mr. Modi has completed 3 successful terms as CM of Gujarat and is seen as PM candidate for 2014 elections.
- This time he invited Reuters for interview, and again the same question asked.
- He asked whether he was remorseful about Gujarat riots in 2002, he was trying to convey why would he not be remorseful about human death when “even if a puppy is hurt, one feels bad”
- Now, the Indian media twisted the statement by saying that “he compared Muslims with dog”
You can watch those 2 minutes interaction here
- Later Reuters confirmed that a simple non-communal statement was twisted to malign his image and Indian news traders created a spicy controversy in that.
Following are his clarification videos for it
- Now, CM of Gujarat is PM of India. He interacted with one of the “friendly BJP” channel Times Now
- When discussing job creation for youth, he meant to convey that almost 90% jobs are in informal (not white color) sector and hence are not reported in formal statistics
- To explain his view, he gave an example of “pakoda seller” outside TV station who is making money through self-employment but is not counted in any formal statistics
- Since then many mainstream media (MSM) went bersek with immature silly jibes
Full 1 hour interview can be watched
- Mr. Modi has shut down almost all interactions with Indian media
- He sent replies to an email interview
- Image on the left -> the range of issues that he addressed
- Image on the right -> the only newsworthy thing that journalists has highlighted
It is clear that Modi has always wanted to give answers on multiple issues to improve his “125 crore Indians” or “5 crore Gujaratis”, but Indian media was never interested or very less interested in those. They want sensation issues around religion or communal divide; or misquoting him which could create controversies.
- Modi is continuing his final tenure of his first term as Prime Minister of India with growing popularity accross the world and has won Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2014  and 2016
- In 2014, he won it ahead of Trump, Obama and Zuckerberg
- He has also featured on Time magazine cover twice.
- He was once denied visa to US, but in 2014 he received a rock star’s welcome at Madison Garden in New York 
- On the same Madison Garden, Rajdeep Sardesai got involved in a street fight with one of the Modi supporters
- In 2001, Rajdeep was conducting TV show “The Big Fight”. In 2014, he got engaged in a literal “Big Fight” with Modi supporters 
- 1 minute video where he can be seen assaulting a commoner can be watched
- The other anchor in the 2001 TV show “The Big Fight”, Siddharth Varadarajan was sacked from mainstream media houses like “The Hindu”. He now runs the propagandist website “TheWire”, which provides a platform for all anti-Modi journalists (Vinod Dua, Arsha Khanoom Arfani, Saba Naqvi, Abhisar Sharma etc.) to vent their opinions
- On the same TheWire, Karan Thapar whines about Modi and BJP shunning him completely and not giving him any interviews 
- Thapar rues the fact that Modi speaks to foreign journalists but not to Indian media
- While Modi has continuously increased in international stature, the same can’t be said about Indian media. In 2015 Nepal saw “Go Back Indian Media” trending on Twitter due to their insensitive coverage of the earthquake 
- Overall, Indian mainstream Media has earned the unflattering epithet of “Presstitutes” among many in general public
- In an ideal democracy, media is neutral and is responsible for questioning the government in the interest of nation. However, the real world is not ideal – and most of Indian media is not neutral
- Mr. Modi has most likely lost trust in most mainstream media for their partisan and controversy seeking attitude
- Now he bypasses mainstream media and extensively leverages Social Media for effective interaction with citizens
- Mainstream Media has become largely redundant in current context but to a large extent, is itself to be blamed