At a book launch in Delhi on 24 November, Arun Shourie, a journalist and former member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said, “It is the end for conventional media—not only because it is being overtaken as a source of news by the new media, but because of its cowardice and greed.” Shourie was one of the panellists at the event marking the launch of India Social by Ankit Lal, the social-media strategist of the Aam Aadmi Party. Shourie also criticised the country’s mainstream media for its “complete resolute silence” on the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the judge BH Loya. “Every media house should have been running to develop that story,” he said.
Shourie was joined on the panel by Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, who also spoke out against the media coverage of the disturbing allegations surrounding Loya’s death. “The media is also afraid, the media is also influenced,” Kejriwal noted. Both of them were speaking four days after The Caravan published a series of reports by Niranjan Takle, which raised grave questions about the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death. At the time, the judge was presiding over a high-profile case—the allegedly fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, in 2005, in which the BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. Kejriwal noted that after he read The Caravan’s story on the questions surrounding Loya’s death, “I really couldn’t sleep that night.” He called for the Indian public to “raise our collective voices” to demand a probe.
Kejriwal repeatedly expressed his concern about the “message” that would be sent to the judiciary, if a probe would not be conducted. “If we can’t save the nation’s judges,” he said, “then there will be no democracy.” He continued, “We used to think that the judiciary can be bought—but now it will become that there is no need to buy the judiciary because they can be intimidated.”
The day before Kejriwal’s comments, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had released a statement demanding a “high level judicial enquiry … into this whole affair.” However, the Trinamool Congress, which had demanded a probe at the time of the judge’s death in December 2014, is yet to make any official statement. The Congress, too, is yet to make any official statement—barring Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s statement that the reports were “worrisome,” and Kapil Sibal’s tweet questioning the judiciary’s silence.
Kejriwal noted at the book launch that while social media ensured that the reports could not be silenced, “it is not becoming political because of the silence of the mainstream media.” Shourie described this as a “criminal silence.” He noted that the media was “dying in a very prosperous way.” He added, “They are earning so much money that they are just neglecting their basic tasks.” In an interview, after the event, Shourie elaborated on his concerns about the mainstream media’s coverage. He noted that “as far as good work is concerned, work in the interests of the country is concerned, the mainstream media is in its last gasps. It is on its last legs. It’s not going to be available for good work for the future.” He also criticised the media for being “a part of the government establishment.” “One of the simplest ways in which the government has shut the mouth of the media is through advertisements,” Shourie noted. “There is a Zulu proverb—a dog with a bone in its mouth can’t bark. That is the condition of the mainstream media today.”
Video: Shahid Tantray