Arnab Goswami now the ultimate saviour of journalists?
Times Now host's outburst at MLA Ashok Kheny for abusing a female colleague doesn't excuse his repulsive comments toward his peers.
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The impossible has happened.
Instead of branding someone "anti-national" with the hot iron of his harangue-happy News Hour, Arnab Goswami, judge, jury and executioner of India's media adalat, has actually stood up for someone. He has promptly risen to the defence of his colleague at Times Now and the channel's Mumbai bureau chief, Megha Prasad, who had to face unparliamentary, abusive language from a stung Karnataka MLA, Ashok Kheny, in the line of duty.
And, everyone is (pleasantly) surprised.
Of course, a 6.34-minute-long "Arnab Goswami Confronts Ashok Kheny | UNCUT Video" has been duly circulated after being broadcast on the channel, in which Arnab can be seen demanding a letter of apology from Kheny for his public impropriety, which too has been caught on camera and repeated ad nauseam on Times Now.
From Judge Dread to Knight in Shining Armour - Arnab's latest transformation may seem fairytale-ishly perfect for the cooing Twitterati and his loyal followers, who subject themselves to the daily 9pm primetime for a dose of Arnab, and leave disparaging comments in disconcerting English over any article (and there are aplenty) remotely critical of the Most Nationalist Newsanchor Ever.
How dare anyone question Arnab's integrity? Never ever, ever, ever, ever, never can you do that. Meenakshi Lekhi learnt it the hard way.
[Unless, you're Subramanian Swamy, of course.]
Kheny, who resembles a Feroze Khan duplicate, was heard merely mumbling indiscernibles on the other side of the line, and the spectacle of a righteous but informally dressed Arnab putting Kheny in his place looked like a far cry from the News Hour Arnab wielding his laryngeal acrobatics like Zeus' thunderbolt on them "anti-nationals".
But where is the letter of apology that Arnab Goswami owes to Tehelka journalist Asad Ashraf, whom he had called a "cover for Indian Mujahideen" on his show?
Where is the letter of apology that Arnab Goswami owes to Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid for calling them "worse than Maoist terrorists", again on his show?
Where is the letter of apology that Arnab Goswami owes to journalists en bloc for refusing to condemn unequivocally the harassments that female reporters of NDTV - Sonal Mehrotra and Bhairavi Singh - were subjected to when they were covering the Patiala House ruckus and the Anupam Kher-led March for India counterreformation caucus?
There are none. There will be none.Is Arnab Goswami merely being the good guy by demanding an apology from Ashok Kheny?
Arnab Goswami doesn't take himself to court. But if he did, he wouldn't stand a chance against himself in the witness box. Goswami has behaved so uncouthly with so many on his channel, carried out character assassinations of such an amazing range of people without the slightest proof, towed the simplistic government line on issues so various and so complex, reduced the nation and its Constitution to Modi government's election manifesto so often, that he should, ideally, spend the remaining days penning and reciting his public apologies on air.
But, of course, he wouldn't.
Much like Narendra Modi, Arnab Goswami, too, does not believe in his own fallibility, his own serial indiscretions, but nevertheless, ritually carries out live-streamed witch-hunts in his court-room-cum-amphitheatre of a television studio.
Arnab's "flip-flops" on journalistic integrity are hardly flip-flops. They are a continuation of a theatre of roguery, monetisation of a primitive lynch-mob instinct, and Arnab is always the one holding the whiplash.
Though his coming to Megha Prasad's defence is patronising at its most subtle, it could at least be read as a "nice gesture", despite being, or perhaps because of its being, big-brotherly. But then he lets off Kheny easy, wraps it up with a bit of rebuke and a firm demand for apology.
Yet, he reserves his most unconstitutional live harassment to fellow journalists who take an ideological position different from his straitjacket of a warped nationalism. That nationalism is basically a tricolour-wrapped coffin carrying the corpse of democracy and Arnab is its chief pallbearer.
Calling Asad Ashraf a cover for a banned terrorist outfit on live TV because the Tehelka journalist dared to poke hole in an official narrative on the Batla House encounter episode was one of the lows that Arnab merrily sunk to, all in the service of Brand Arnab. Didn't Arnab, in fact, flout the norms of journalistic conduct handed over by the Press Council of India, when he made such a grave allegation against a fellow journalist because the latter differed from him?
Similarly, when he shouted "You're worse than Maoist terrorists" at Umar Khalid and a couple of other JNU students when the twin sledgehammers of the national and university administrations came down upon Kanhaiya Kumar, not only did he cross the Rubicon of deplorable demagoguery that television news has mostly been reduced to, he actually showed how it is done to the rest.Is it Brand Arnab or the journalist Arnab we are being talked down by?
It is one thing to steal trend-setting, impactful exposés from rival media channels and parade them as Times Now "exclusives" (such as calling India Today's sting-operations on Eknath Khadse and Rajya Sabaa Bazaar as Times Now's and trending them on social media with slightly reworked hashtags). It's quite another to try being a "I respect women" brand ambassador with a 6.34-minute-long telegenic takedown of a barely known MLA after a string of brazen and unacceptable silences when female reporters from other media houses were threatened, abused and harassed for doing their job.
Not only did Arnab Goswami not say a word against the intimidations faced by Sonal Mehrotra and Bhairavi Singh on Delhi streets from right-wing goons who click selfies with BJP stalwarts and post them on social media, he has been equally and defeaningly silent on the ritual abuses faced by established female journalists from trolls.
Rape threats, whether on arterial roads of the national capital or on the sinewy circuits of Twitter and Facebook, if hurled at women belonging to a different nationalism camp, such as CPI-ML's Kavita Krishnan, or Priya Pillai of Greenpeace, have gone unremarked upon by Goswami, while he himself has branded them "anti-nationals", out to tarnish the national image on global platforms, belonging to the I-Hate-India industry, much like a "five-star has been novelist" (by which he probably meant Arundhati Roy).
Arnab Goswami's feminist and progressive credentials cannot be certified by a scripted-for-TV drama in which he is seen to be doing justice and fighting the case of a, no doubt abused, female colleague. It will be, however, for everyone to acknowledge when he fights for the rights to dignity of those who vehemently disagree with him.