Marina Ovsyannikova and Godi media
A month ago Russian journalist was seen on screen with a poster holding a sign of anti-war words. BBC states “Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at state-controlled Channel 1, was detained after she ran onto the set on Monday holding a sign saying “no war”. She said she had been questioned for 14 hours and not slept for two days and was not given access to legal help. The 30,000 roubles (£214; $280) fine relates to her video message.” The poster translates into English as “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. Here they are lying to you. Russians against the war”. It was unusual for any journalist to appear on TV shows when the newsreader is going live. Mariana was an exception. I believe She was the right person at the right time to do so. Despite working as a reporter in state-controlled media, she dared to speak the truth. In an autocracy like Russia, a small circle of powerful political and financial elite control everything. No one can deny that media is a medium where propaganda, perception, and views are promoted by the government or any side. It has been the situation in most countries. The country run by cunning political figures such as Vladimir Putin, Russia is not an exception. Meanwhile, it can be a suitable example of how the state can go to any extent to pursue interest through misinformation by fooling the public. And how can we forget the role of Fox News during the presidential term of Donald Trump as well as George Bush? It is also true that this news outlet openly promoted conservative voices. Disregarding the Democratic party while sidelining non-conformists and some progressive opinion was their daily cup of tea. At least the US had other media and news outlets that could counter Fox news and deconstruct their propaganda. In their article published in ‘The Perspective’ section of Rand corporation Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews regard Distinctive Features of the Contemporary Model for Russian Propaganda as
High-volume and multichannel
Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
Lacks commitment to objective reality
Lacks commitment to consistency.
Since 2014, most of the media outlet in India has been captured by Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP). It is not that BJP owns media. The fact is that most of the media outlets, especially TV channels and youtube channels, where information flows instantly, these platforms have been speaking for the party and government that it leads. To deconstruct so, we may know how well corporate media where money-making is the priority, and BJP are tied to each other. This nexus is something unusual that we see in any democratic country in the 21st century. I cannot say of NAZI Germany but the level of support these media platforms in India provide for the government is far eviler than in communist countries. The term Godi media was coined by NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar. This was the reaction to the growing lopsidedness and pro-BJP stance of other media who were predominantly supporting the government. Pro-government anchoring is one of the many loopholes that we get to observe when we watch Godi-media channels. There are a lot of reasons why they are dangerous to society. It is not that journalism is perfect everywhere and Tv media are corporate media with the goal of profit maximization. But unfortunately in India, we get to see only the news spreading propaganda, hatred towards minorities, and unsurmountable praise for the political establishment, its supreme leaders, and the party itself.
According to Human Rights Watch which investigates and reports on abuses, journalists have been under threat in India. The ones critical of the Modi government have been targeted. Similarly, India also shut down the Internet to curtail freedom. The state has used surveillance mechanisms to arrest and falsely charge journalists without any guilty. In most of the stances, Muslim journalists have been targeted. The same report remarks “Authorities in BJP-led Uttar Pradesh state have repeatedly filed false charges against journalists for publishing content and social media posts critical of the government. Since 2017, after BJP leader Yogi Adityanath became the state’s chief minister, the authorities have filed criminal cases against 66 journalists.” Similarly 2022 edition of the Press Freedom Index published by ‘Reporters Without Borders’ positions India in the 150th position, the lowest ever.
I was introduced to Indian media in early childhood. I do not remember much about how it used to portray news at that time but as I came to know about it while growing up, I often observed very common things it presented. For Instance, News was filled with masala to sell to the audience i.e. whatever the news, it was presented in a sellable manner. To share an interesting example here, Whenever India played against Pakistan and another opponent, hyper-nationalism, jingoism, and hatred of rivals while utmost praise regardless of any situation were shown to the home team. When Team India could lose the match, the anchor would spread hate toward them(Team). This made me think about why media is so concerned with sports. In other instances, many news channels covered as many reports as they could. In the headlines, dozens of different news were shown. This is justifiable as India is a huge country. My amateurish mind at that time observed that top Indian media at that time narrated and presented not-so-important issues making people feel that as a daily routine. I would say marginalizing public issues were a very prominent element of Indian media. Exceptions certainly were few. Meanwhile, Bollywood and celebrities were given a considerable amount of time. At that very time, I was not aware of how media work in the subcontinent. It was the scenario I observed in the early 2010s. Little did I know was the media always show the truth which really matters to society.
But things changed after 2015 when I was also in my late teens. At that time, all I could remember was that mainstream tv channels in India were more nationalist lining. Here is important to note one thing. When I was watching the 2014 T-20 World Cup held in Bangladesh, Modi’s election campaign dominated most of the ads during the matches and tournaments on respective channels. At that time, I had not much idea about who this man was. Later I knew that it was BJP and its populist politics that acquired the most attention. What I knew most of the thing about Manmohan Singh’s Indian National Congress completely vanished. It must not have vanished but it was made so with the help of political, social, and media construction. The media completely marginalized the opposition’s voice. On the other hand, alternative voices were never a cup of tea for what we term ‘Godi Media’. I don’t think there is any lexicon to describe how evil these media were. I too was in the wrong impression that the state of India was in constant danger. Showcasing fear has been an essential element for any nationalist government around the world. Since the end justified the means, dividing two or more communities, marginalizing democratic voices, and normalization of nationalism in the evil form were common. The end was to make multicultural and multi-ethnic India a Hindu Rastra. Does singular identify dominated nation idea in the multicultural state ranging from Kashmir to Kanyakumari work? This doesn’t make sense. And who did BJP make the ‘Dosti’ alliance to? It’s corporate. Perhaps corporate is another factor responsible for what we have been observing in India. It is also the result of the rigged capitalist system of India. Neo-Marxist already in mid 20th century had predicted that the bourgeoisie class and corporates control elections in capitalist and democratic societies. Corporations needed the support of the government while the latter needed the former. This equivalent may sustain as they have a very realistic end for their own benefit in the liberal setting. With the help of social media, pop culture, corporates, and increased TRPs that support Hindutwa and the pro-Modi stance, results are made possible. It will, unfortunately, be quite difficult to turn this tendency upside-down. Sustainment of the same situation is likely to make India more divided in the future. One may even forget that India was the same country that gave birth to the greatest humanist such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and B.R. Ambedkar during the other half of the 19th century. And most importantly the geography which was tolerant and welcoming to the people of each civilization originated far from the continent.
Coming back to the Godi media, the hatred and stereotypes towards the ethnic minorities, especially the Muslims are common. At the time of threat or any hostile situation, blaming and presenting Muslim personnel in a suspicious way has sadly been a daily routine. Similarly Godi media also always tried demonizing neighbors, especially Pakistan. And who did it benefit? The BJP. The mainstream channel propagated and broadcasted news in such a manner that they were acting as spokespeople of government. The people with alternative voices were considered not the only enemy of the nation but insulted and vilified also. There has been no space for free journalism, credibility, balance, and dissent. What happens when the media deifies the government? What happens when the press instead of asking critical questions, starts appreciating policies and positions of government and related parties blindly? It may have several repercussions but the majority of people start believing the same oration and content creation broadcasted by a majority of news channels and newspapers. In a country where the illiteracy rate is high and most people are deprived of basic infrastructure facilities poverty. One argument is that people will certainly start believing in that propagated content. And there certainly are many factors that lead people to believe them. Also, another fact is that BJP and its wing groups have more members than any party in a democratic country. These members also act as tools for the current government to help them pursue their objectives.
Some instances also help us to identify how these media works. How the Godi media during the covid-19 pandemic deviated the most concerning issues by unnecessarily bringing the suicide case of Sushant Singh Rajput into the limelight. Similarly, demonizing and oppressing Rhea Chakraborty without any proof. Looking back, in a nutshell, Godi media propaganda did not make any sense. When people died on deathbeds because of a lack of oxygen cylinders, Arnab Goswami could bark in his studio “Drug Doo, Drug Doo” Media broadcasted the news in such a way that India was the best example that managed and handled the deadly pandemic really well. But in reality, it was not the case and India was mostly affected country from a pandemic with poor managerial and administrative capability. Similarly, denying the official reports of research agencies including WHO delegitimizing by calling them anti-national was their duty since it could hurt the Modi government. Just a year before, the media helped Narendra Modi to come into power thanks to his populist stance and anti-Pakistan narrative propagated by Godia. The tragedy is that Godi media never spoke for the shake common people of India belonging to all the regions in the vast country. Rather, it othered other culturally, disregarded and disrespected differences by undermining decentralization and multiculturalism. For instance, Hindi medium Godi media disregarded decentralization and voices of the periphery because they are different from what the centrally and Hindi speaking belt considers them to be. The voters of UP have been a bonus for the BJP because their votes are crucial to forming the majority in New Delhi. So the BJP’s tendency (current government) majoritarianism, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, populist, illiberal, or whatever lexicon are there, is supported and endorsed by Godi media blindly in various ways. They don’t know how the country suffers from the repercussions they were most responsible for causing. So, they are no one but “PUPPET”.
It is interesting to know and understand why BJP came into power, populism is a generic factor. On the other hand, as said by many commentators there was growing frustration in India’s middle class. The BJP tried to cash out this. But the economy has been in the worst condition since Modi came into power. Youths and people are frustrated now and one day this very ignorance and atrocities of the BJP will lead to their downfall and that’s for sure. But as far as BJP, its wings, and Godi media will remain in power, one cannot envisage a liberal democratic and free society. Unfortunately, it might take a few decades for people to understand why Supremo Modi has not organized any press conferences in public. I am still imagining that someone from the same media fraternity will come onto the screen and showcase all the things about government propaganda and media lies in India like Marina Ovsyannikova. In the end, the truth shall prevail.