NDTV’s double standards on Twitter abuse

NDTV’s double standards on Twitter abuse

Those who tweet regularly are quite familiar with the common complaints by the media – I am being abused. NDTV’s group editor Barkha Dutt always goes a step further. At every available opportunity, she talks about the need to regulate social media to contain this abuse and how “online venom” is “dangerous”. Given her strong position this, one would imagine that NDTV will never give a platform to known abusers. And here’s where NDTV stumped everyone — twice in one week!

The topic for their weekly show ‘The Big Fight’ was ‘Twitter wars’ — alluding to the recent hashtag “war” on Twitter between supporters of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Quite expectedly, the moderator of this show Vikram Chandra (who is also CEO, NDTV) brought in the topic of ‘abuse’. So far, so good.

One of the panelists on this show was Sanjay Jha, known quite well for the abuse he engages in on Twitter and a regular face of the Congress on many TV channels (including NDTV). A Newsluandry journalist pointed this out on the show itself — he read out an abusive tweet in which Jha calls Narendra Modi a ‘badmaash’. This was just a sample. Jha is capable of far worse (he even makes weird, unwanted references to Modi’s personal life). Jha proudly agreed that he stands by that tweet. He says that it is the ‘truth’ that Modi is a ‘badmaash’.

I asked Vikram Chandra if he believed this amounted to abuse. He agreed. I asked him why he didn’t do anything about it when this happened on his show. I am yet to receive a logical and satisfactory answer.

Not to be left behind, almost on a parallel, another high-profile journalist from NDTV, Sreenivasan Jain did a program on the exact same topic. This was not a debate, only a 20-minute show bizarrely titled, ‘Truth vs Hype’. Sreenivasan Jain went a step further and interviewed possibly the worst ever serial abuser the Internet has ever seen – Amaresh Mishra.

Amaresh Mishra has threatened to kill people. He even threated to kill the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He is a known Congress leader. There have been news items on him before his advent on Twitter. He claims that he met Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi recently held discussions with them!

In fact, in their show, NDTV clearly shows a tweet in which Amaresh Mishra wishes that “sanghis” are raped and killed. They very mildly ask him, “Is this not abuse?” The mild tone is difficult to miss — one should contrast this to the posture NDTV anchors adopt to ‘abuse’ on Twitter. Amaresh Mishra then goes on to explain how they worked as a team to make sure one hashtag was trending.

Despite such clinching evidence, NDTV merrily airs the two-minute segment on Amaresh with not even a mild rebuke. Then we discover that the two-minute clip on the programme has been edited out! Many tweeple have persistently questioned Sreenivasan Jain on why this clip was removed. Was it because of Amaresh’s reference to meeting Rahul Gandhi? Sreenivasan Jain replies saying they took that clip out because a tweeter alerted them about Amaresh’s death threat to her!

The explanation is bizarre to say the least! Does he mean to say that if the said tweeter hadn’t alerted, he (and NDTV) would have had no qualms in providing a platform to such a blatant abuser? NDTV itself has aired his abusive tweets and has tried to equate them with non-descript abuse from independent tweeters. Why has NDTV decided to be a platform for helping Amaresh Mishra spread abuse and hatred? Why does NDTV not have any reservations on airing abuse by Sanjay Jha?

Day in and day out, many anchors rant about being abused. Merrily and happily, they provide a platform to known abusers from the Congress side. A ‘Twitter war’ is not a new phenomenon. Over the last three to four years, the monopoly of the English language TV media has been challenged on social media. But the media has chosen to ignore this challenge because it exposes them! But curiously (and perhaps conveniently) today, the media wakes up to a BJP vs Congress ‘war’ and tries to further their agenda of ‘rampant abuse’ on Twitter! And in doing this, NDTV takes the help of known abusers! The irony can’t get any more amusing.

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S Sudhir Kumar

Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer