Primetime Watch: Some Channels Discuss Rafale, EC on Modi Biopic – and Others Ignore

A daily round-up of trends and patterns on news television.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday admitted review petitions filed against its December 14, 2018 judgment in the Rafale case. It also accepted three documents relied upon by the petitioners despite the Centre opposing their maintainability.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi later said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was maintaining that “SC has given him a clean chit” in the Rafale matter. “But today Supreme Court has made it clear that chowkidar chor hai.”

Modi hit back at an election rally by saying that Gandhi was lying due to the “burden of his father’s sin, the Bofors scam”.

The Election Commission stalled the release of a Modi biopic, PM Narendra Modi, by invoking powers under Article 324 of the constitution. It imposed a ban on public screening of any biopic material till the time the Model Code of Conduct is in force. This also impacted the release of other such films and a web series on Modi.

How did the TV media report these stories?

English channels


Anchor Nidhi Razdan discussed the Rafale order with one of the petitioners and former Union minister, Arun Shourie. The senior journalist referred to the apex court accepting the admissibility of the three documents saying, “In a series its earlier judgments, SC held it does not matter how evidence is procured if it is genuine and relevant.”

The channel ran headlines like “SC dismisses Centre’s objection”, “SC: Leaked secret documents admissible” and “SC to fix date for hearing review pleas”.

Shourie also stated that the Centre’s bluff has been called.

He said the best thing for the Centre now would be to “give full documents to the court”. He also spoke about how the media was reporting these documents since November. “The Wire and Caravan began publishing them in December, and The Hindu did so in January.”

Also read: As Lok Sabha Elections Begin, the Seats and Candidates to Watch out for

Shourie also said that “first hurdle has been crossed and SC has agreed to hear petition on merit; two review judgments will now be heard – one urging SC to review its judgment, and the other to prosecute the government for perjury since they misled the court.”

When Razdan asked if the order would “impact ongoing elections – it is an issue which has been brought back to life,” Shourie replied, “such issues did during Emergency and during Bofors.”

Times Now

With #RafaleJoltForNDA and headlines like “NDA’s objections rejected”, “BJP dismisses Rahul’s chor jibe” and “Cites Vadra to target Rahul” the channel took up the issue in its programme, Rapid Fire.

Anchor Navika Kumar, while taking a “look at the larger picture of what the SC said”, asked if it indeed said anything beyond the leaked documents being admissible in court.

Journalist-politician Ashutosh said, “The very fact that SC has admitted the petition, rejected government’s plea should be a point of concern. Earlier SC had almost given a clean chit to the Centre. But now it thinks is these are serious documents and should be examined.”

He said these papers were not part of those in the sealed envelope which the Centre submitted. “The government did not present these documents on purpose – now there is a petition for perjury against it for wilfully lying under oath.”

Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani of the BJP insisted that the government has not suppressed any documents. “As far as these documents are concerned, the government has admitted their contents – so there is no issue of suppression.”

India Today TV

With the headline “Loss of Face for Modi Govt”, Rajdeep Sardesai also debated the Rafale development.

He asked the BJP spokesperson, “Do you concede your strategy was pathetic?” To this Nalin Kohli replied that “Official Secrets Act will apply as long as documents are taken out.” On pricing, he reasoned, “There is a price for a sack and what goes in makes the difference”.

Sardesai said the question is the manner in which the purchase was made. “The matter is continuing and not yet settled,” he said.

Also read: It Is Not a Voter’s Concern Where Political Parties’ Money Comes From, AG Tells SC

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “The issue will only be settled once SC pronounces its order. Fact that SC did not have access to these documents shows the government concealed them– that is in itself a big crime.”

Chairman of The Hindu group, N. Ram, said his newspaper did six articles on the suppressed documents. “We did not steal the documents, did not pay anything for them. They were given out of high motivation in public interest and it was our duty to publish them.” He also lauded other publications for showing the courage to do stories on the issue before The Hindu.

Republic TV

The channel used #MuslimVoteCall to discuss “Appeal for votes on religious line” and “Who’s communalising the election”.

Through its headlines it noted that there was “Another open appeal for Muslim votes”. Anchor Arnab Goswami said: “I am not talking of the voter but the leaders who do this”.

As others discussed the double whammy for Modi, the channel chose to look at “Double whammy Wednesday for Congress”. It said there was “Embarrassment for Rahul Gandhi” as “Alpesh quits Cong, AAP ditches Cong”.

Hindi channels

ABP News

Through #RafaleKaRann, anchor Sumit Awasthi discussed the issue and its repercussions with Union minister Prakash Javadekar. “Court ka faisla BJP kay liye jhatka (Court’s order a setback for BJP)” was how a headline described it.

Javadekar had a tough time answering as Awasthi questioned him on how the price for 126 aircraft ultimately fetched India just 36.

He also asked Javadekar how he viewed EC’s stopping the film release and its being seen as an MCC violation.

The minister replied, “For us the release of a film does not matter when it comes to taking our message to the public – people are giving a second term to Modi.”

Awasthi had more ammo for Javadekar. “Even Imran Khan is giving him a second term,” he said.

Zee News

On a day when British Prime Minister Theresa May described the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as a shameful scar on British Indian history, the channel did a story on how Britain was yet to formally apologise for it.

It recalled former PM David Cameron saying in 2013 that “we should never forget what happened here”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2017 said the British government should apologise.

Also read: Ruling Against ‘Surrogate Publicity’, EC Suspends Release of Modi Biopic

But anchor Sudhir Chaudhary said an “analysis of British position” reveals that it treats it as a “deeply moving incident” but even 100 years later has still not sought an official apology for it.

NDTV India

In Prime Time, anchor Ravish Kumar showed how while he was on way to Begusarai in Bihar, he came across a water protest in Vaishali district. “I came here for the first time when power came and today people have blocked the road – there say there is no water,” he said, speaking about the hardships faced in Nitish Kumar’s state.

“By using a hand pump people are indicating that all of them have dried up,” Kumar added as he spoke to several residents who complained, “Paisa uth gaya (Money has been siphoned away)”. Their grouse was that money was released for water works but no work happened.

Kumar also showed women sitting with their buckets to demonstrate that there was no water in their village.

One resident said: “When we complain, we are told do anything you like. Nothing would happen. Our two cows have also died.”

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