We journalists, so trapped by egos and the ratings wars, have brought this moment upon ourselves (shutterstock)
We journalists, so trapped by egos and the ratings wars, have brought this moment upon ourselves (shutterstock)

When invasion of privacy comes back full circle

The sanctimony that a section of the media wears like a second skin comes undone so fast when the scrutiny is on them.
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 10:39 PM IST

At a personal level, I find it abhorrent that it has become par for the course for our private conversations, on the phone or on WhatsApp, to slip so easily into the public domain. Where they are then torn apart salaciously, discussed, and distorted without context or due process. It actually militates against all principles of natural justice.

Yet, like so many others, I too felt the “aha” moment, looking at the ethical scandal that has enveloped Republic TV anchor and promoter, Arnab Goswami. There was no escaping the grand irony. A bombastic man who has been not just the judge, but also the hangman at a private kangaroo court, night after night, distributing and withdrawing certificates of patriotism and propriety, has now been tripped by the proverbial shoe on the other foot.

Just a few months ago, Goswami — as well as all prominent anchors from his competing television networks, including those who are hand-wringing about him now — were using someone else’s leaked WhatsApp conversations as “evidence” to brand a young woman, Rhea Chakraborty as a murderer. Based on strands of conversation, entirely decontextualised, there were even whisper campaigns about the appropriateness of her relationship with Mahesh Bhatt.

And the same leaks and casual exchanges — which is how people talk when they think no one is listening — were used by Goswami and his cohorts to malign several directors and actors as drug-peddlers. Reputations were bent and broken, people convicted and buried, as gloating television hosts danced on their metaphorical graves, in a grotesque modern-day medieval witch hunt.

Thus, of all the people in this world, the one person who cannot lay any claim to privacy or being misunderstood or misrepresented is Goswami. I have not had the patience to trawl through the miles of his once private, now public, exchanges with the former head of India’s TV rating agency.

But the parts that really stayed with me were his gleeful reductionism over the horrific terror strike in Pulwama and the subsequent strike in Balakot. Again, it is the hypocrisy that is staggering. Channels such as the one run by Goswami have reduced the dignified constitutional patriotism that guides the Indian spirit to a prime-time caricature. People have been declared traitors because he willed it so. The banality of descriptives such as “anti-national” has rolled off his tongue with wilful destructiveness.

So, at this moment, we seek to measure him only by his own standards. What might he have said about a colleague in the media fraternity who was caught talking similarly on her phone? I have often argued with my liberal friends for their failure to gauge the pulse of the country on national security. But no soldier or soldier’s family that I know would find it pardonable that lives lost in the line of duty are treated as fodder for television eyeballs. As Apurva Purohit, the daughter of a soldier killed in the terror strike told me, “This is disgusting. This is not what my father died for.”

Again, from anyone else, I would be sympathetic to the argument that there is not a human being alive who would be comfortable with what they believe to be their private space suddenly ripped open for the world to see.

Ten years ago, I was hauled over the coals by media colleagues for a conversation on what came to be called the Radia Tapes. Shocked, hurt that my integrity had been questioned over a man I had never met or spoken to in my life — the then telecom minister, A Raja — I opened myself to a one-hour interrogation by my peers on national television, ready to answer anything asked of me, adamant that I had done no wrong and my work spoke for itself. As someone who asked questions of people all my life, I was ready to face them too. But then and now, I saw it as a deeply dangerous media-manufactured narrative to selectively target competitors within the fraternity.

Today, I am struck by how life turns full circle. The sanctimony that a section of the media wears like a second skin comes undone so fast when the scrutiny is on them. In many ways, we journalists, so trapped by egos and the ratings wars, have brought this moment upon ourselves. Instead of acknowledging that there may not be even one of us whose loose, casual talk, with sources and friends alike, would pass everyone’s test of approval, we have spent our energy on tripping the other and weakening the fighting capacity of our profession.

And Arnab Goswami is a parable for the Republic. And for the times we live in.

Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)

Where are India’s women leaders?

By Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Steven Walker
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
Women are less involved when it comes to participation in campaigns and contacts with public officials. Women candidates also have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates. There are also different societal expectations from political leaders of different genders
Close
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is a looming epidemic — of loneliness. Take it seriously

By Saumyajit Roy
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
India has a real opportunity to showcase solutions to a global audience towards using the best of tech and expertise in reducing loneliness. While a dedicated ministry for loneliness may just be the impetus, all we need is to look for are basic ways and means to help people who are on the brink of feeling lonely.
Close
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)

Scratching the surface hasn’ helped. It is time to strike at the core issues

By VS Pandey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • India's administrative structure led by All India Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) adopted an approach of 5% vs 95%.
Close
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)

Disengagement will not lead to friendship

By Jayadeva Ranade
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Notwithstanding the recent exchanges between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers and military commanders at the border, India-China relations remain at a critical stage
Close
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)

Provide data on the education of Muslims

By John Kurrien
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
Monitoring the educational progress of Muslims was hamstrung by the absence of official data, leading to their downward spiral that went unnoticed for decades
Close
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The pandemic has added to the urgency of protecting wildlife

By Dipankar Ghose
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:14 PM IST
Wildlife conservation needs to be prioritised, and development plans at country, state and district levels need to take cognisance of wildlife needs
Close
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)

The India-US tech partnership decade

By Janmejaya Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:30 PM IST
US support enabled China’s high-growth trajectory. But the rift between the two offers India an opportunity
Close
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)

Who is stirring the caste cauldron in Karnataka?

By Venkatesha Babu, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:08 PM IST
  • The Karnataka government has blamed the opposition for fishing in troubled waters by trying to take political advantage of the agitations but Yediyurappa may have to look within.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP