‘News Anchors Have Become the Biggest Goons of Our Time’

TV journalist Ravish Kumar was on Sunday honoured with the first Kuldip Nayar journalism award for his contribution to the field. In his typical satirical style, Kumar, while accepting the award, tore into the media industry and the political ethos of the time.

Here is a an English translation of Kumar’s speech.

In the midst of all the sorrow and difficulties and being alone, I am glad all of you have given me a part of you, and I accept it graciously.

I have aged, and I thought I should write something.

In a time where politics is crossing all moral boundaries – introducing new ways of insulting – when our tolerance is being eroded – in that time, being felicitated is like watching a clock on the wall that’s ticking.

The ticking clocks fell silent decades ago, and with that, we lost the ability to sense time through mild sounds. That’s why we now fail to judge and realise when something disastrous is going to happen around us. We have become callous and our sensitivity levels are dipping. The needle is giving us pain and we are tolerating the pain.

Not Being Able to Think Freely Is a Form of Death

We have all become consumers of these tragedies. When we hear of Gurgaon and Delhi or Chennai drowning in water, we start watching the weather reports. The reporter, in her calm and composed manner, lulls us into the tragedy. And we become consumers, waiting for it to end. The next day, we hear of news where a car was stuck and three people died in it.

We are all turning into the consumer that the weather report anchor wants us to become.

It feels no less than sitting in an examination hall which is being constantly raided by vigilante groups, or flying squads, to reinforce the feeling in us that there is a culprit amongst us who can be caught red-handed. We are being searched repeatedly. The trolls have been set upon those who believe in speaking their minds freely. We know we haven’t done any wrong, but a chill runs down the spines of those present in these ‘examination’ halls, each time a new raiding party visits. A fear of being implicated falsely, without having committed any crime, takes over.

If you feel this is not happening, look around and witness the number of people who are being falsely implicated. These are the same flying squads who never catch the wrongdoer, but instil a sense of deep fear in you.

Nowadays, police constables, inspectors, and income tax officials have become really active. And the most active of them all is the news anchor.

You have all been stuck in the web of first degree, third degree and fake degrees. The news anchor easily applies third degree every evening, becoming the biggest goon of our time.

I am happy, therefore, that in a time where media anchors have become baahubalis, there are people who are honouring anchors.

When this tumultuous time passes, and when people talk about how news anchors indulged in goonism, you will all be remembered. Your evening has not been wasted then.

Thank you Gandhi Peace Foundation. I am conscious of the fact that this award has been created by the sweat of journalists. Receiving anything from my seniors in the profession is like bakshish to me. It’s like a prayer having been answered. We all revere Kuldip Nayar sahab. Millions of people have read you. You have lit candles at those borders in whose names hatred and venom is spread every day.

The name of that nation is being taken in this nation to bring disrepute to people here. Maybe people haven’t understood the meaning of you burning those candles. If we had all embraced the light from those candles, it wouldn’t have lighted the passions of many, but enlightened their intelligence.

We had committed the same mistake then that we are committing now. In fact, how many of us are even talking of love? I doubt whether people even think of love anymore. Every morning we don’t see the sun rise – instead, we begin our day by checking ‘Good morning’ messages on WhatsApp. It seems like soon the world will start believing that the sun rises on WhatsApp! Soon, we are going to prosecute Galileo once again, and this time, we are going to witness a live telecast!

Anupam Mishra is not amongst us anymore. We have accepted this truth just like the society seemed to have accepted his non-existence even during his lifetime. I wish I had received this award when he was around, perhaps from him only. Whenever the fresh breeze touches me or whenever I see a wave of fresh water, I remember Anupam Mishra. He has left for us a language, with the help of which we can save a lot of things. For that, however, it is pertinent that we clear our souls. The purity within us has been blotted by filth. We must attempt to refine our thoughts and our language, just like Anupam Mishra. Without having brushed off the layers of dust covering us, we would not be able to stand up.

This is a phase of discovering possibilities. We are continuously on the lookout for new and remaining possibilities, and the people who continue to cherish and safeguard the new hopes and possibilities. However, these hopes and possibilities are now fading away. In the midst of this, our hopes seem to be getting alone. For how long will we all survive, this question is bothering us all. Till the time we are around, we have even forgotten the meaningful way of living. In such a scenario, there is aneed to rekindle our energies and passions. Hone your questions; question the political groups you relied upon. Those groups have broken our trust. Also ask those in whom you do not have any faith. Our communication with the society has completely broken down. The society pins all its hopes in political parties to bring about change. The society now knows that it is only the politically powerful who can bring about pleasant or dangerous transformation. It is because of this that people do not step back from pinning hopes in political parties. The people have been continuously taking this risk. Political parties fail them every time, but they still place their bets the next time.

There has been a constant decline in the political parties after various members left them and got engaged in various directions. These are people who no longer see politics as an instrument to bring about social change. The absence of such people in political parties has led to a decline in their morality. There is a need to restructure and reshape political parties. Please set aside your inner contradictions. We’ve seen them enough for the past 30-40 years. Leftists, Gandhians, Ambedkarites and Socialists – all have left their mainstream political formations. As they left, mainstream politics has lost the sense of an alternative politics. Return to those parties and take over the organisations.

I am being awarded for my journalism. It gives me immense pleasure to tell you that there is no crisis in journalism today, if you thought so. All the editors – from the capital city to those in the districts, are very happy to be swept away by the ideological storm of a particular party. How much ever we criticise them, we need to accept that they are extremely happy. It is now that they feel accomplished as journalists.

The Inseparable Bond Between Indian Media and Politicians

The media had made incessant efforts for the past 50-60 years to merge with political entities. Hotels, malls, mining leases and the different licenses they procured, could not satiate their hunger. Their souls remained unfulfilled. Now, they have attained peace. Finally, the media’s dream of being a part of power politics has been fulfilled.

Indian media is right now in the state of ecstasy. There was a time when they found a stairway to heaven; today they have found heaven on earth. The stairway is not needed any longer. If you do not believe me, please go ahead and have a look at any newspaper or watch any news channel. You will be overwhelmed by watching their love and loyalty to one particular political agenda. Only when you appreciate the bliss they have attained after decades of desperation, will you take your pain a little less seriously. Never before have these decked up anchors looked so handsome! Neither did the female anchors praising the government look as beautiful. Journalists are also the government now.

Journalists Are Now Propagandists

The few who are left can be easily evicted. How would an individual journalist surviving help the situation? Organisations as a whole have been communalised. Journalism is spreading communalism in India. It is thirsty for blood. It will make the nation bleed one day. It may not appear to be very successful in promoting its agenda today, but we cannot ignore the efforts it is making. Thus arises the need for us to deliberate upon this with anyone and everyone we come across.

Newspapers and television channels have become branches of political parties. Anchors wield more power in political parties than the general secretaries of these parties. Until one fights these new political formations, alternative political ideas cannot take shape. They have also managed to hegemonise minds of people in such a manner that I am asked by many as to why I question.

But how can we overlook journalists who are making efforts to safeguard possibilities. While their possibilities would eventually fade, their legacy would empower us in future. Whenever these journalists, tired of sycophancy or humbled after betrayal, wake up from their slumber – it is these cherished hopes and possibilities that would save them.

That is why I insist that we must cherish our hopes and possibilities. Refrain from seeing these times through a prism of hope or failure. We are on a rail track where the giant engine is just before us, and there is no way to run away or save ourselves. Hope or sense of failure are both not an option. It is time to throw yourself to work. We are running short of time and its pace is very fast.

(The speech has been translated from Hindi by Ikshula Arora.)