PUCL, August 2003

Manipulating people's minds
The BJP's media offensive in Rajasthan
- By Kavita Srivastava

As the elections are approaching the BJP offensive at controlling the print and the electronic media in Rajasthan has taken off. Their efforts are as follows:

Management of existing media
· prevention of publishing and telecasting of news/stories that puts them in bad light by managing the top management, editors and owners of newspapers and TV channel.

This was blatantly carried out during Vajpayee's visit to Jaipur on the 10th of August, 2003 and during Vasundhara Raje's Parivartan yatra. One TV channel took of the news from its channel at prime time as the TV journalists had called the rally a flop show and had shown visuals of disruption of the rally by Social Justice front members. One newspapers changed the copy of its reporter as the latter had reported objectively on the rally stating that it was nothing much.

· complaining about correspondents when their copies do not suit them and also getting reporters off the rolls of the paper .

One reporter was removed from his job as he wrote objectively and critically and his stories went against BJP communal politics. Complaints were made against a couple of reporters who took the BJP and Vasundhara to task in their stories, their seniors received phone calls that the beat of the reporters should be changed.

· intervening at the top management and editorial levels resulting in harassment of the journalists as they are expected to give explanations to their editors/owners.

One TV channel reporter and one news paper reporter had to write long explanation for his story that showed the BJP in bad light.

Setting up of a news agency and a local TV channel
· a hindi news agency called the News Network of India, with a network of stringers in towns and kasbas is being set up in Rajasthan. Some coorporate agents have made contact with hindi journalists to set up this news agency. They will be paying a handsome sum to the person who will look after the State office located in Jaipur. The news agency is being mainly set up to feed local papers in Rajasthan and not for the metro / national papers.

According to sources the financial support to this news agency will come from the News Network of India's other projects. One of which consists of formulating media plans for public sector undertakings. This news agency is being promoted by the office of Mr. Pramod Mahajan and Vasundhara's press Secretary.

This new venture is apart from the many newspapers that they already control. The RSS already has another media group called the Vishwa Samvaad Kendra established in most districts of the state of Rajasthan.

· a news channel

( still exploring more information about this channel )

Infiltration in the Pink City Press Club

It has been observed by members of the press club that in the last few weeks a bunch of RSS and ABVP members have started visiting the club regularly with the agenda to gauge the mind of the press persons, gather information and plant stories. Some members of the press club have decided to increase the attendance of the secular people in the press club in order to counter this infiltration.

Apart from all this the pro BJP papers have raised the tenor in defense of the BJP ideology and its leaders.

Setting up of media watch groups with senior media persons

This has been set up at Delhi level to build a certain image of the BJP. Its role is monitoring and creating news that helps the BJP.

Response of Journalists Unions
There are two journalists union, one affiliated to the national union of journalists of India and the other National Working Journalists Union, both have ceased to be active on the front of ethics, rights of journalists and debating such issues which their members have tried putting forward to them. No press note has been issued despite requests by members.

Response of other parties including the Congress party
There has been no public statement or strategy against this dimension. The BJP has the field completely to itself.

Basically the battle is being fought by secular, individual journalists on their own. Social groups are yet to get their act together and strategise effectively.

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