Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who recently resigned from his position as editor of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), on Saturday spoke at Rajasthan Patrika's annual ideafest Keynote in Jodhpur. Thakurta, in a session alongside Subramanian Swamy, dissected the Modi government's promises and delivery.
What made the session interesting was how the same premise – that is, Demonetisation – was seen through entirely different lenses by Thakurta and Swamy. While the journalist argued it made the rich richer and the poor poorer, Swamy focused on how people continued to show their love for the BJP government – as seen in the subsequent elections – despite being inconvenienced by the move.
Given the polarised perspectives on most political matters today, it is easy for the media to follow the perspective the government would like presented without being critical, and Thakurta isn't convinced that's good journalism.
In an interview with Catch, he says, “The media has to play the role of an antagonist, an adversary, those who are not just curious, but those who question. The whole idea being that you seek to hold accountable those who are in positions of power.”
However, he clarifies, that critical approach doesn't necessarily make the media anti-establishment. “Media has to take the role of being critical of the establishment, it's not that it has to be necessarily anti-establishment,” he says.
On being asked if Indian media has in some way forgotten this role, Thakurta says, “You can make out whether you are operating and living in a democracy or not when you look at the media, the front pages of newspapers, the headlines of news bulletins, whether these news bulletins be on TV or radio. And if all those news bulletins are only singing paens of praise to the supreme leader or whoever is in power, then you know something is wrong.”
“When it comes to Indian media, the spaces for dissent, the space for dissenting voices, critical voices, hasn't actually gone up.”
But are Indian journalists free to dissent, even if they wish to? Thakurta doesn't mince words when he says, “You're as free as your editor, your owner, those who pay your salary.”
(You can watch the full interview in the video above.)