Here are two tweets from Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today. He sounds upset in both. This is following the very private meeting the Prime Minister had with five editors from the print media.
“Since you don't like message, shoot messenger! Wonder if that's new media strategy of govt. Even sympathisers seem to (be) turning against UPA”
“Boy Cong incredibly angry with media. 1st PM attacks press, then spokespersons launch scathing attack on air. Case of shooting d messenger?”
I believe it’s very unfair to call it a ‘press meet’. It looked like a luncheon meet of the ‘mob’ for a friendly discussion on the state of affairs of their turf. It’s strange you would think. A Prime Minister holds a press meet with five select editors from the print media and then needs to be defended by his own spokespersons. That is precisely what Manish Tiwari and Ambika Soni were doing on June 29.
Some of the firm assertions of Manmohan Singh at this meet were “I am not a lame duck PM” and the media is an “accuser, prosecutor and judge”. I agree with the media part though. That is their general approach to all issues. Other than that, the PM generally blamed the opposition for the lame duck tag. These statements were made when most of the ‘chosen’ editors were ones who are known to be friendly to the Congress.
It is also strange that the PMO has decided MMS will now meet the media every week. This is in stark contrast to months of silence and is clearly an excess. I wonder who devised this strategy, the PM himself or his media advisor Harish Khare. Nobody wants the PM to meet the press every week. Every week would not only be an over-kill but just as boring. And how do they pick the editors for the meeting? Do they draw lots? Do they go by circulation or viewership? Do they go by friendliness of the media outlet? And in this day and age a closed-door meeting? Because MMS is camera-shy? Weird reasoning!
If I were one of the five editors chosen for this particular meet I would have declined. In any other sensible country the PMO would have journalists who are accredited by his office for regular meetings, like the White House has. It would have been appropriate for the PM to meet those journalists all together. After all, those journalists do get to travel with him on Air India One on his official travels.
After the press meet Kumar Ketkar of Divya Marathi and Alok Mehta of Nai Duniya were almost the spokespersons for the PM themselves. They were disseminating the utterances of MMS to the rest of the media. So the rest of the media was delivering what I would term as second-hand news. Is this what the PM wants this country’s media to be? Dealing in second-hand news? And then analyse second-hand news for the vast population?
An edition of Divya Marathi was recently launched by none other than P. Chidambaram. This is the Dainik Bhaskar group. The Divya Bhaskar edition in Gujarat is a severely anti-Modi newspaper. Then there is Nai Duniya’s Alok Mehta. This newspaper is circulated in parts of MP and published from Indore. Then there is Business Standard’s T.N. Ninnan which, of course, is a business paper as its name suggests with limited circulation. There is Raj Chengappa from the Tribune. The PM is a great fan of the Tribune himself.
So Rahul Kanwal has his own fraternity to blame for the nonsense that was the press meet. The PMO cannot and should not pick and choose journalists that it wants to meet. The five wise men who met the PM should have declined and asked that the PM meet all the journalists accredited by the PMO. Lame ducks shouldn’t get to choose their crutches.
Here’s another thing. When the PM meets a bunch of five journalists next time, would the issues remain the same? Would the questions remain the same? So each time the select journalists would get to address or hear the PM on a different set of questions and issues. By itself there is nothing wrong in that. But the very crooked idea of limiting the meet to five journalists is to restrict the agenda, the questions and the issues.
So Rahul Kanwal’s lament, while justified, should only reflect on the media itself. The media which normally acts like a mafia union should not accept press meets that pick journalists at the whims of the PMO for an audience. The first bunch of journalists who met the PM were from friendly media outlets. The media first willingly allows its own manipulation and then cries foul. The drama can only be called ‘friendly fire’!
As for the Congress, in keeping with its devious policies, it might as well run a ‘Malamal Weekly’ lottery to pick the winners from the media who will get to meet the PM in future.