Who's saying what on the Barkha-Arnab slugfest

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 29, 2016 18:08 hrs
Barkha Dutt calls Arnab Goswami 'Narendra Modi's chamcha'

It all began with this Facebook post by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, lashing out at Arnab Goswami of rival channel Times Now for supporting the government’s gagging of journalists in Kashmir. Stating that she was ashamed to be from the same industry as him, she accused Goswami of hypocrisy.


What made Barkha Dutt so angry? It was this allusion by Arnab Goswami, during his nightly sermon, to “pseudo liberal, pseudo journalists” who are giving away operational details that compromise security forces, denouncing the army and supporting Pakistani terrorists. 

The Greater Kashmir reports that Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed had praised journalists for shedding light on state atrocities against Kashmiris.

"India accuses me of wrongdoings to cover for its terrorist activities when I talk about Kashmir. But, there are good people like Barkha Dutt." 

However, Dutt responded that Saeed was a terrorist and distanced herself from his statement - 

Repulsed by Hafiz Saeed trying propaganda points on my work. None of your business. You're a terrorist. That you're free is Pakistan's shame.

Despite this, Goswami used Saeed’s statement to make his case about some journalists being terrorist sympathisers, 

Barkha Dutt, one the most prominently trolled journalists on twitter has once again bombarded with criticism and insult. Elaborating her views in this article published on NDTV’s website , she says that this is not just a spat or a clash of egos but that she was 

standing up for freedom and rejecting the sinister intimidation tactics of a classic bully and his embarrassing subversion of journalism. 

Calling Goswami’s vilification of journalists as Pro Pakistan Doves as hypocritical and false - 

He lumped all of us who have reported the recent unrest in Kashmir (from the ground, not from behind the lazy comfort of a Mumbai studio table like him) as apologists for the recently killed militant Burhan Wani, without explaining the basis of his statement. Similarly, he positioned us as being at some sort of war with the Army - both false and disingenuous. 

Dutt also pointed out that a true journalist should be committed to report all sides of a story unlike Goswami who merely hands out verdicts during his prime time show News Hour. She recalls that when journalists protested an attack on their colleagues during the JNU crisis, Times Now did not take a stand except to call all those who raised questions as anti national.  

Mr Goswami and his senior editorial team were conspicuously absent at the protests. Once again, he dubbed the rest of us who questioned whether the government response was disproportionate as traitors to India. As the latest instalment of his hysteria shows, there is a clear pattern to his concerted attacks on the rest of the media. If this is not a danger to democracy, what is.

Senior Journalist, Rajdeep Sardesai has explained why he would like to remain silent on the issue. In his article in The DailyO, he draws inspiration from Michelle Obama’s speech a few days ago at the Democratic National Convention, denouncing poisonous, Sardesai laments on the polarising atmosphere in media - 

You are either a desh bhakt or a pseudo liberal, a nationalist or an anti national depending on your reportage, if not ideology. If you talk of the pain of two wasted generations of Kashmiri youth living under a draconian law like the AFSPA, then you are an anti-national, pseudo liberal.

If you scream about the agony of Kashmiri Pandits becoming refugees in their own country, then you are a "nationalist" and a patriot. If you speak of both tragedies, then you are, as some of us are lampooned, a "monkey balancer 

While Dutt has criticised Sardesai for his silence, saying that it implies complicity, the latter retorted that the pen is mightier that the sword. Here are some interesting articles on the ongoing feud that offer a larger perspective -

Seema Mustafa , The Citizen urges us to look beyond the personalities and focus on the larger issue of corporate controlled media that is peddling a narrative that best suits its interests.

This loud, screaming, rant is seductive in its nastiness. It gets the eyeballs, as people look on in stupefied wonder at the anchor devouring anyone who does not fit his agenda for the day, and passing this off as news.

The danger does not come from the individual. It comes from the system that is controlling journalism, and using it to further propaganda and an agenda that might crack democracy in the process.

C.P Surendran in The Wire also writes about how Times Now’s popularity reflects on middle class India. 

The trouble is millions of Indians like Goswami to be triumphant. He fulfils their aspirations. Goswami refers to himself and his viewers as “We”, meaning India. He is the spokesman of the nation. Goswami in his vishwaroopam comprises establishments like the army, the law, the administration, and other apparatuses of the state, leaving little for the rest of us seditious Indians to hold on to.

Priya Ramani’s article in the Live Mint on why Barkha Dutt is the most hated journalist is also insightful. While many question Dutt’s own proximity to the Congress, she says that the hatred that is spewed against her is also undeniably because she is a woman.

They hate her because she is a powerful, fiercely political, independent (and in this case single—an added negative) woman who is unafraid of articulating her voice. She’s “arrogant”, that classic descriptor for any non-conforming Indian woman. Her presence on the Niira Radia tapes that uncovered a telecom scandal involving journalists, politicians and chief executive officers in 2010 is a chink in her armour and becomes a convenient entry point for blatant personal abuse. The male journalists on the tapes have long moved past that news story.

Sanjeev Srivastava calls for a truce in his article in The Quint

The Barkha-Arnab slugfest is now not just about clashing egos and contrasting styles, it’s about who is on which side of our sharply polarised polity.

Both are free to choose which side they want to battle for, but as someone who has genuine admiration for both of them, one may agree or disagree with them on different issues but there’s no denying their success and spunk, is it too much to ask for some restraint from both these fellow journalists?

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