03 March, 2021

Media: The Turn Of The Phrase

The writing on the wall doesn’t mean we drop our guard or critical faculties. But neither does it mean we join the pack.

Illustration by Sorit
Media: The Turn Of The Phrase

The Emergency of 1975 is a watershed in the relations between politicians and the press. With a few honourable exceptions, the press was exposed, in the memorable words of L.K. Advani, as crawling when it was just asked to bend. I have often wondered why a large section of the older journalistic fraternity dislikes Indira Gandhi so viscerally. It is true she “throttled” the press, but she also put on grand display the humiliation of the press corps for the entire country to watch—a humiliation in which the press corps participated enthusiastically.

Till 1975, relations between journalists and politicians had been cordial—perhaps too cordial. The Emergency turned that cordiality into what it has become today: adversarial.

Along the way, in 1987, another attempt was made to muzzle the press by Rajiv Gandhi through the Defamation Bill which sought to put severe penalties on journalists and newspapers for printing what the politicians believed was unfair criticism amounting to defamation. That effort boomeranged and the bill had to be withdrawn...

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