The Caravan

Screen Test

When I spoke to a senior staffer of News18 Tamil Nadu in October, I was told the entire organisation was crumbling. Numerous staff members had been forced to leave, the tone of the channel’s coverage had changed sharply over the last two months and all editorial decisions were now being made by a distant Delhi leadership. From being one of the state’s most successful and fastest growing channels a few months ago, News18 had gone to seeing its ratings and viewership nosedive.

Worst of all, the staffer told me, was the air of fear floating around the channel’s Chennai office. “All it’ll take is one social-media post saying I’m an anti-national and I’ll be fired,” the staffer said. “None of us can know for certain, but we could be just hours away from losing our jobs merely for having an opinion. I’ve been in the industry for a long while now and I don’t think there has been a scarier time for the Tamil media.”

The trouble began at the start of July, when Maridhas Malaichamy, a Hindu nationalist YouTuber of middling popularity, released a video accusing numerous prominent Tamil journalists of being representatives of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Tamil Nadu’s chief opposition party, and the Dravidar Kazhagam, an anti-caste self-respect movement founded by the reformer EV Ramasamy Naicker, widely remembered as Periyar. Maridhas blithely claimed that two-thirds of the News18 staff were DK supporters, and that the channel reflected their biases. He identified M Gunasekaran, its editor-in-chief, as the main culprit.

Maridhas repeated these charges in an online petition calling for News18 to “be neutral” and “have neutral journalists.” The channel soon received several hundred letters demanding that it act against supposed Dravidian sympathisers, including some from leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu unit. Maridhas’s synergy with the BJP is no secret. In 2019, after a DMK leader filed a police complaint against Maridhas for spreading false claims about the party, the local BJP jumped to his defence on social media.

The News18 staffer saw letters sent to the channel’s official email address, and noted that they reproduced much of the language of Maridhas’s petition. “I almost laughed when I saw it,” the staffer recalled. BJP leaders “were making silly allegations against the company, things like when they are invited for debates they aren’t given tea while non-BJP guests are.” They also “complained that Guna sir asked them tough questions, but that’s

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Altro da The Caravan

The Caravan23 min lettiEthnic Studies
Uncivilising The Mind
AS AN OVERPROTECTED BRAHMIN boy growing up on College Road, I experienced my first culture shocks not more than fifty yards from the back wall of our house … The entire culture of Bandikeri (the area behind our house where lived a colony of Shepherds
The Caravan5 min lettiPolitics
Rainbow Coalition
In November last year, the Polish artist Przemek Branas completed his latest performance piece, “Miner’s Kiss.” The work centres on the twentieth-century writer Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz and a homosexual lover he had lost in his youth, echoing a largely
The Caravan2 min letti
The Bookshelf
This book draws on the writer’s research and conversations during her travels in the region of Gandhara, stretching across parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It focusses on the art and architecture of ancient Buddhist cities, revisits the history of