Monday, March 7, 2011


The protests in Libya and earlier in Egypt and Tunisia have fascinated the world. Rightly so. Ordinary people challenging dictators are always good to watch. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the protests in Bahrain, Yemen have turned ugly, more so in Libya. Defiant dictators unleashing the army on their own people. Then there is also a lot of drama associated with such uprisings. So can our journalists be left behind? After all, these are the champions of democracy. Aren’t they? Let’s see!

Liberation or Journalistic Aberration?
India can claim to have exported many great brains and professionals across the world. However, our journalists probably wouldn’t belong in that category. First, the ones that landed up in Egypt ended up reporting more about their own plight rather than the events there. How they were harassed by authorities, detained by police and so on. So I wonder, do we really need any reporting from clumsy Indian reporters? They do a bad job in India itself why take it out there? I have to admit, going to conflict zones does take courage and I do give them that. But beyond that it’s just comic relief.

First, it was Times Now that landed in Libya. Well, Egypt-Libya border if you like. And for the first two days last week what was it that Times Now reported? Their report consisted of one line repeated over and over again for two days: “Times Now is the only Indian channel on the Egypt-Libyan border”. Bravo! That’s the second biggest leap for mankind since the landing on the moon. I know what you’re thinking! Where’s Barkha Dutt? Well, while Kashif of Times Now was telling us how his was the only Indian channel there, our brave lady was tweeting her way right up to Libya. What followed from her could have been in a tweetathon.

No one described Barkha’s experience better than B. Raman, the former bureaucrat and strategy analyst. Here is a sample of what he wrote on his blog:

Barkha and her NDTV team made their way through nearly 700 kms of beautiful desert made famous during the second World War by the epic tank battle at El Alamein between the allied forces commanded by Field Marshal Montgomery and the Nazi German forces commanded by FM Rommel. Barkha has over 200,000 followers in her Twitter site. I am one of them. I keep exchanging Tweets with her from time to time on current developments...... The Twitter enabled us to follow Barkha and her team for nearly seven hours of their 15-hour journey. We kept encouraging her through Tweets and E-mails and advising her and her team to take good care of themselves and not to walk into a trap. I was touched by the gesture of even some critics of Barkha in praying for the safety of the team. One of her critics tweeted her: “May not agree with her opinions on matters ....but safety is paramount ..I pray for her safety... There were so many others who prayed for their safety. I tweeted Barkha: “ U see how many well-wishers U have in the sub-continent.”..... Even people in Pakistan tweeted her “good luck.” Ms. Munizae Jahangir, a journalist, who is the proud daughter of Mrs.Asma Jahangir, the famous Pakistani human rights activist, tweeted Barkha to say that she was E-mailing to her the telephone numbers of some Pakistanis in Libya whom she could contact if she needed any assistance.”

That’s exactly what Barkha described too. 15 hours of travel, beautiful empty highways and deserts, and tweets that said she hoped the internet and other stuff worked out there in Tobruk. (If you don’t know where Tobruk is just look up her tweets)Wait! Even ‘Pakistanis’ tweeted her goodluck! Isn’t that nice? (Just as some other Pakistanis were busy killing Shahbaz Bhatti) And so at the end of these exchanges we were all better educated about the situation in Libya. Both from Times Now and from Barkha Dutt. It doesn’t end there. Not to be out-done Headlines Today rushed their own team out there. So we had a Gaurav Sawant and Co. taking us through the strife. Playfully, if I may add. That’s it! Enough is enough said CNN-IBN! So by Sunday (Mar 6) CNN-IBN announced their team was there. Why in the world does CNN-IBN need their own out there? Aren’t they a sister channel of CNN with the likes of Nic Robertson and Ben Wedeman doing the reporting there? And these guys are hardened conflict-zone reporters. Unlike our ‘studio heroes’ who landed up in Libya, you are unlikely to find Robertson or Wedeman frequently in TV studios.

Am I famous now? Isn’t that how CNN got famous overnight on January 17, 1991 by being the only channel to report live on the first Gulf war? Yes, I was somewhere in Europe that night to watch it all. So you might see a Gaurav or Barkha or Kashif hogging international channels very soon. There is a reason why American journalists are all over the place. The US has a lot at stake in many countries and regions given its political and economic influence for a long time. India simply doesn’t have any stake in any region except for our citizens living there and general trade. And if you wanted conflict zones, those are in abundance within our shores. And yes I do hope and pray our journos remain safe and out of harm’s way.

Those who run channels like Aaj Tak and India TV may hold the strong belief that most Indians are stupid, gullible morons who will buy into the ‘Bhoot-Pret’  and ‘end of the world’ stories or Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan’s previous avatars. Make no mistake, India TV is probably the most popular channel in India. But the English channels need greater sophistication in treating their audience to stylish tom-foolery. The funny part is just as these journos got into Libya the biggest stories were breaking in India. The SC judgement on the CVC and then the DMK pull out of the UPA or "what the hell is going on..." hogged the TV channels for the last few days. And their greatest achievement might simply be one of just having gotten into Libya, without visas. Other than that there is nothing much in their coverage that is not already there on CNN or BBC or such channels. Very soon Al-Jazeera maybe in India too. Yes, that TV channel whose post box the Al-Qaeeda love so much. Will be more fun then.

I seriously wonder. Just over a year ago, there were strong anti-government protests in Iran. None of these bravehearts dared to go there and do some reporting. Does Islamic rule have anything to do with that? Does courage stop at fully Islamic countries? It’s hard to say if Libyans will truly find Liberation. But with our journos I can say with some confidence that it has been a Libyaberration!


  1. Wish that she(Barkha Dutt)come back safe and at the earliest, since she has to appear before PAC.

  2. Madhusudan ThakkarMarch 07, 2011 1:08 PM

    After Barkha Dutt arrival in Libya Gaddafi forces have pushed back rebels.Unlike Mubarak,Gaddafi still enjoys support.The situation is Egypt was entirely different.The situation is not like revolution or coup.I won't be surprised "We the people" will be telecast live from some town of Libya and panel will have members of both sides i.e rebels and supporters of Gaddafi and of course Manish Tiwari who will give "perception" from India

  3. Why the author is beating the bush over the dead woods? Instead he could file litigation in the perception court which is on the anvil headed by Manish Tiwari? He will (for perceptions sake) get justice and the errant will be shown the right door (again perception)

  4. OT but point to be noted is that Egypt was a different matter than Libya.

    with Egypt's gOvt' overthrown, USA lost control over it.

    USA never had a hold over Libya. WIth its previous record of fiddling with other sovereign nation's policy, I think its possible it has a hand in the uprising.


    keep up the good work.

    PS: your blog has a permanent link on my bookmark toolbar. :)

  5. May be Barkha needs to bring herself back after tapes fiasco.

  6. Barkha Dutt should stay in Libya till Gaddafi is removed from office.She should play important role as far as "secular" media is concerned.Congress and DMK have can stay together without her intervention.


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