Many hits, some misses: How some media houses covered yesterday's farmer protests

There were journalists who did their job, even though a handful of primetime shows skipped the protests.

ByAnna Priyadarshini
Many hits, some misses: How some media houses covered yesterday's farmer protests
Shambhavi Thakur

While news channels obsessed over Deepika Padukone and embarked on car chases while her vehicle was on the way to the Goa airport, something else was playing out in India yesterday.

Farmers across the country held protests on Friday against the contentious farm bills passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week. Farmers from 31 organisations held a Bharat Bandh, supported by 10 central trade unions, including the All India Trade Union Congress, National Trades Union Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre, and Trade Union Coordination Centre.

The protests were supported by Opposition parties like the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Trinamool Congress. Several national highways were blocked, including the Delhi-Amritsar highway, the Delhi-Meerut highway, and the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway. Security has now been tightened at state borders.

But some journalists did switch focus from the media circus surrounding the investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death — and the “drug nexus” born out of the case — to provide detailed updates on the nationwide demonstrations.

Here are some of the good reports we saw yesterday — and some primetime shows that weren’t great. This list is not exhaustive.

NDTV

During the day, NDTV’s Alok Pandey reported on the protests in Uttar Pradesh where the Ayodhya-Lucknow highway was blocked by protesting farmers. A “chakka jam” also took place on a highway leading to Delhi. The channel’s Saurabh Shukla reported on protests along the Delhi border.

That night, Sanket Upadhyay described in detail how the protests unfolded in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, Ravish Kumar’s primetime show delved into the government’s alleged attempt to dismantle the farmer unions.

Mirror Now

Mirror Now’s Pramod Madhav reported from Chennai during the day, where cadres from the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s farmers wing had gathered at Tambaram bus depot. The CPI(M)’s state president, G Balakrishnan, said the “changes are against the interest of the farmers and will lead to only corporatisation of the farming sector”, according to the channel. Sections of the Tambaram arterial road were also blocked. At Red Hills, Mirror Now reported, a similar protest took place.

Satyameva Jayate

Journalist Sakshi Joshi from Satyameva Jayate, a YouTube channel, covered protests at the Punjab-Haryana border during the day. She reported from Punjab’s Sarsini, among others, where she interviewed some of the protesting farmers.

India Ahead

News channel India Ahead sent several reporters to cover the protests: Shiv Pujan Jha in Bihar, Rickson Oomen in Kerala, Varnit Gupta in Uttar Pradesh, and Suraj Suresh in Karnataka. The channel’s reporters also posted live updates throughout the day.

Asiaville

Amit Bhardwaj of Asiaville, a multilingual news portal, closely tracked the protests in Haryana and Punjab. Farmers from Punjab’s Mansa district in Punjab blocked railway tracks and raised slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party and the farm bills. Bhardwaj noted that the farmers in Punjab were “infuriated” with the new bills.

Faye D’Souza’s YouTube channel

On journalist Faye D’Souza’s YouTube channel, Amitha Balachandra reported from Karnataka on the protests against the farm bills and the land reform amendments introduced in the Karnataka Assembly. D’Souza also hosted a discussion on the protests with representatives from farmer associations and activists.

Primetime shows

What about the primetime debates on big TV news channels last night? Most channels were diligent in providing live updates about the protests — but primetime is a sacred space. Did the farmers’ protests manage to find a mention?

To give Rajat Sharma his due, he devoted 17 out of 47 minutes on his primetime show to how the farmers were protesting. His theory was that the farmers need to be “educated” since they’re unaware of the bills’ details. Sharma said that farmers are demanding justice from the government so that they don’t have to incur more losses.

But there were some, or several, misses.

India Today skipped the farmers in favour of Sunil Gavaskar’s “unsavoury” comments on actor Anushka Sharma. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t actually say the “unsavoury” comments being reported in the media.) In his primetime show, Rajdeep Sardesai chose to discuss the Bihar Assembly poll, except his angle was whether Bihar’s voters care about “Sushant, caste, Covid or vikas”.

On News18 India, Amish Devgan put together an esteemed panel to discuss whether being a youth icon gives one the “license” to indulge in drugs or crime.

Republic’s Arnab Goswami was in fine form, unravelling #DrugCompanyKWAN. “I am not going to stop reporting,” he threatened.

Times Now worked itself into a frenzy on the same old “maal chats” on Rahul Shivshankar’s programme, and how Deepika Padukone is purportedly the admin of a “maal chats” WhatsApp group. Padmaja Joshi’s segment gave Padukone a pass and instead focused on how Farooq Abdullah reportedly said that Kashmiris don’t feel like Indians.

Padukone got a lot of air time last night though; on Aaj Tak, Anjana Om Kashyap and Rohit Sardana devoted their shows to her. But Aaj Tak’s reporters were briefly out and about covering the protests earlier today.

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