Close on the heels of Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit inviting controversy over patting the cheek of a woman journalist, BJP leader S Ve Shekher created a furore by posting a comment, ‘Can’t Be Reporter If Not Sleeping With Bigwigs.’ In his Facebook post, which was later deleted, Shekher also mentioned that the Governor should ‘wash his hand with phenyl’ for having touched the woman journalist. Journalist fraternity and netizens condemned the statements made by Shekher and sought an apology from him. Media is known as the fourth pillar of democracy but the BJP leaders have made a mockery of journalists. Many leaders publicly post insensitive comments against female journalists and disrespect them. Later they apologise and withdraw the statements made by them.
Political journalist Nilesh Khare said, “Politicians have already lost their credibility and only media possess the power to question them. Therefore, they are trying to tarnish the credibility of media. Basically, politics is like — when people are unable to compete qualitatively then they try to make allegations against other. The ego of ruling party leaders gets hurt when journalists question them.”
Amit Malviya, the chief of Bharatiya Janata Party’s social media cell had earlier issued threats to the journalists for covering fake news and tarnishing the image of his party. He had posted, “Prahlad Joshi, BJP MP from Dharwad gets Gauri Lankesh convicted in a defamation case. Hope other journalists take a note.” Gauri Lankesh was a fierce critic of BJP and its Hindutva ideology. Many of the tweets posted against the saffron party were trolled by the Hindutva outfits online and some of them are even followed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Resident Editor of Dainik Dabang Duniya Unmesh Gujarathi said that all politicians are interconnected. He said, “Ruling party leaders are arrogant and they possess money and power. There have been instances of political leaders assaulting journalists.”
“To some extent, media too is responsible as journalists accept awards from ruling party due to close proximity to them. So media too needs to remain unbiased. Sometimes they also return awards for gaining publicity. We need strong and honest media,” he added.
Union Minister General VK Singh had gone overboard and addressed media as ‘presstitutes’. He tweeted, “Friends what do you expect from presstitutes. Last time Arnab thought there was ‘O’ in place of ‘E’.” Opposition parties criticised Singh for making insensitive remarks against the media. JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar asked him to respect the freedom of press. Even Congress party condemned the statements made by Singh.
BJP spokesperson Shirish Boralkar said that sometimes media do cover sensationalised stories and target the BJP leaders. He said, “Purohit’s intentions were not bad. Sometimes media do cover stories about politicians that are not supported by true facts. We don’t endorse the statements made by Shekher against women journalists and we respect the media fraternity.”
The right wing activists had applauded the murder of Gauri Lankesh. Ashish Mishra, Social Media Advisor for Ministry of Information Technology tweeted, “Jaisi karni waise bharni.” Nikhil Dadhich, who addresses himself as a Hindu nationalist and is followed by the PM Narendra Modi, had gone a step further by making degrading comments after Gauri Lankesh’s murder. He posted on social media, “A bitch has died a dog’s death and now all the pups are whining in one voice.”
Congress spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare said, “BJP leaders have been known for making irresponsible statements publicly and their leaders too are involved in rape cases. They don’t respect women.”
“Often anchors and editors are seen supporting BJP while having a debate on Unnao and Kathua rape incidents and they don’t allow spokesperson of opposition parties to express their views. However, this doesn’t mean that every journalist is biased as many of them are working honestly,” he added.
Meanwhile, Banwarilal Purohit apologised to the senior woman journalist for patting her cheek publicly. Earlier Purohit’s action had drawn sharp criticism from journalists across the country as they demanded an apology from him for his behaviour towards the female journalist. In a letter addressed to Subramanian, the governor wrote, “…I gave a pat on your cheek considering you to be like my granddaughter. It was done with affection and to express my appreciation for your performance as a journalist since I was also a member of that profession for about 40 years.”