09 April 2015
[General Singh, who led the rescue of Indians and foreigners from war-torn Yemen is under attack from media for using the word ‘Presstitute’ with reference to certain media houses, leading to howls of protest against the minister ]
General VK Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, who is in the eye of storm for using ‘Presstitute’ to describe certain people from the media has issued a statement that virtually challenges certain large established media houses and journalists, who he says have continuously spread misinformation against him since 2012.
In a statement released Thursday the General has made it clear that he is not going to be cowed down by the pressure mounted by several large media houses and television channels, with help from the opposition parties.
His statement disturbingly expresses the plight of those who are at the receiving end of media calumny with few options to set the record right.
He says, “….one has legal recourse (to take action against such journalists) but in reality that is an impossibility as media houses have deep pockets and can wear anyone down. Even to get a basic rebuttal published in the same newspaper is an ordeal, as sanctimonious editors sit in judgement like thanedars asking the victim to prove his innocence before they will put two lines in small print somewhere saying they are sorry.”
While the media may have ganged up against General Singh for the use of specific words, it was clear to independent observes, that many of his tweets were deliberately twisted and the sarcasm misinterpreted by some large media houses in the recent past.
Astonishingly, the very same media houses, which aggressively supported the “freedom of expression” of an abusive comedy group, believe that a minister and politician have no right to be sarcastic, if such sarcasm is directed at media mischief.
However, the general has received overwhelming support on social media, with hashtags such as#HatsoffGeneral trending on Twitter.
Here is a statement issued by General VK Singh…
“Since 2012, I have been repeatedly attacked by certain ‘media workers’ who have published stories that were not only cooked up, but also did enormous harm to the institution that I was heading, the Indian Army. All this happened under the watch of the UPA Government who had their own agenda to try and defame me, and certain individuals who were willing to be their mouthpiece, took full advantage of the situation in the hope of currying favour with the establishment. When I fought back and defended myself, the institutions these individuals represented, simply hardened their stand and continued to unleash more and more vitriol in the hope of harming my reputation. So much so, that even after the last Lok Sabha elections and the change of Government, these attacks have continued unabated.
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Specific stories that had been planted and their immediate sources were identified and a complaint was filed to the Home Ministry in November 2013. However, the Government of India, perhaps not wanting to take on these ‘media workers’ who would hide behind the larger umbrella of the ‘National Media’, failed to act. The journalists concerned, emboldened by the fact that they seemed to be unaccountable for their actions, have since not only got away scot free but have been keeping up a steady flow of misinformation.
The unwritten code that exists in the media that they will not write or say anything against ‘their own’ results in a person being publicly condemned with absolutely no real options. Theoretically, one has legal recourse but in reality that is an impossibility, as media houses have deep pockets and can wear anyone down. The Press Council too, is not an option, for it is dominated by some of the very people, who are playing the game of using the media to discredit individuals. Government of India, the only body with the teeth to take action, prefers to keep a low profile in the matter for any intervention leads to howls of protest about the media being gagged etc.
It is time that the media itself seriously looked at creating an effective watchdog organization that has the power to actually nip this malice in the bud. Today the media’s own credibility is at stake and unless there is effective internal policing, this problem threatens to go completely out of hand. Only those who have been targeted by such stories know how vilified and helpless they feel. Even to get a basic rebuttal published in the same newspaper is an ordeal, as sanctimonious editors sit in judgement like thanedars asking the victim to prove his innocence before they will put two lines in small print somewhere saying they are sorry.
The media is one of our great strengths as a nation and if it has to be protected from being seen as compromised, then it is vital that we collectively push for a regulatory body. I ask the Broadcasters Association and the Press Council and all the hard working honest to god journalists (who thankfully are still in the majority) to put their heads together and come up with a solution that gives an individual targeted by the media a fair chance. I would be happy to forward the complaint that was filed with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Broadcaster’s Association, should it publicly commit itself to forming an impartial body with specific time lines.”