Amidst the simmering anger of farmers against the recently passed farm laws, the news media has also caught its flames for the lack of coverage of the farmers’ protest for the past two months. Slogans were raised at protest sites, saying “Godi media, go back” and “Godi media sharam karo.”
The protest to be amplified needs adequate and right media coverage, however, the protestors themselves have chosen to either not speak to the reporters from certain news channels, who they refer to as “Godi Media“ or demand that their protest should not be degraded or manipulated while running primetime shows. It seems that the trust between the farmers and media has been broken and the anguish that they feel towards the media is justified.
What led to this?
On November 28, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar claimed that there are reports that substantiate ‘Khalistani presence’ in farmer’s protest against recently passed agriculture laws. Referring to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, he also claimed that there is audio-visual evidences in which protestors can be heard saying, “Jab Indira Gandhi ko ye kar sakte hain, to Modi ko kyu nahi kar sakte?” (If it can be done to Indira Gandhi, then why can’t it be done to Modi?)
#WATCH We’ve inputs of some such unwanted elements in crowd. We’ve reports, will disclose once it’s concrete. They raised such slogans. In videos they said ‘jab Indira Gandhi ko ye kar sakte hain, to Modi ko kyu nahi kar sakte’: Haryana CM on Khalistan elements in #FarmerProtest pic.twitter.com/ZZQrDTfDA0
— ANI (@ANI) November 28, 2020
Khattar could not provide legitimate evidence backing his statements, however, the narrative was soon picked up by some news media channels like Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhary on his Primetime show DNA ran a detailed news report alleging vote bank politics behind farmers’ protest along with running hashtags #AandolanMeinKhalistan. Drawing a parallel between the farm laws to the Citizenship Amendment Act, he said the farmers are ‘misled’ into believing that under the new laws, the minimum support price for their crops would be reduced.
— Zee News English (@ZeeNewsEnglish) November 27, 2020
Arnab Goswami in his The Debate show on Republic TV claimed that some political parties and lobbyists have pitted farmers against farmers and the government while running hashtags and taglines like, #FarmersAbovePolitics, “Center ready for talks, who’s provoking?” He had Smita Prakash, editor- ANI, as one of the panelists who said that the farmers are being “brainwashed.”
“Hungama kisaano ka ya rajneeti ka, krishi kanoonon par bhadkaayenge to vote payenge? Sadak par kisan kab tak ghamasaan.” Taglines were run by Aaj Tak in the show Dangal covered by Rohit Sardana.
Amish Devgan on his show Aar Par carried taglines such as “Kya Congress ne kisaano ko uksaya?”, “Kya kisaaono ke kandhon se koi aur nishana saadh raha hai?”, “Annandata ka aakrosh kiska dosh?” He alleged that Congress has instigated the farmers for their political mileage.
Farmers claim the absence of their point of view
Having political party leaders as spokesperson or panelists has done little to make the general public understand as to why the farmers are protesting. Farmers shave said that Indians are not being given the information they need to understand why farmers are angry about the new agricultural laws.
With angles of Khalistani presence and politicization of the protest, the message they want to put across has been manipulated by the media. The Scroll reported that 26-year-old Prabhjit Singh, a farmer from Ludhiana in Punjab asked, “Do we have any weapons? On whose behalf are they saying that we are terrorists? We are farmers, educated farmers.”
#FarmersProtest | “National media is not here to support the farmers…We don’t want to speak to channels like Zee News,” said protesting farmers who believe local media is covering their issue in a more dignified way.@NidhiSuresh_ reports. pic.twitter.com/NFK4COYX53
— newslaundry (@newslaundry) December 1, 2020
The farmers also explained, why essential reporting is necessary as the common man is not yet aware of how the farm laws will impact them. The provisions of the news laws lift the stocking limit of the essential crops and due to the availability of infrastructure with traders and big corporations, they will be able to stock the crops. Demand will be created and prices of the crops will be raised, the less earning common man will not be able to buy cereals, pulses, and will perish. They say that the national media is not showing this. Instead, the political parties and media are alleging that we are politically instigated. “No one is coming under anyone’s influence.” The Scroll reported a farmer saying, “Our blood is boiling because we know what is going to happen to us.”
Response to the media coverage
The farmers have refused to talk to reporters from Aaj Tak, not once, but twice saying, “Nahin hum nahin baat karenge Aaj Tak se.” social media was flooded with videos where a farmer said for two months we have been protesting but Godi media did not cover us, raising slogans, “Godi media murdabad“, “Godi media, go back”, and “Godi media sharam karo.“
— Sangita (@Sanginamby) November 30, 2020
गोदी मीडिया की घनघोर बेज्जती, किसानो ने बात करने से मना कर दिया।
किसानो की समझ को सलाम। pic.twitter.com/6O3mUjzZEm
— Jatinder Kumar ( Tony ) (@tonyJatinder9) November 28, 2020
Prabhjit Singh of Caravan magazine who has spent 12 days with the farmers at Khanouri on the Punjab-Haryana border, told Newslaundry that the farmers are “very upset.” He says, he was told, “Sir, we just want to ask you why the media of Delhi is doing injustice. It has been three months but the national newspapers and the national channels are not taking up the issue in a manner they should.”
Thousands of farmers are sitting at the borders of the national capital demanding that either the farm laws are rolled back or a guarantee of Minimum Support Price is made explicit in the laws.