Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Dear Mr.Prime Minister,

At a time when even the Chinese have realised the soft power of the media and been trying to understand it, speak its language and make it a national asset and not a national vulnerability, it is disquieting that your Government is reported to be thinking of setting up a small group to deal with issues concerning the accountability and regulation of media in the light of the way the media covered the recent fast of Anna Hazare.

2. The Government seems to feel that the media---particularly the electronic one--- was one-sided in its coverage creating in the minds of the people a larger-than-real-size image of Anna and giving Anna’s movement a projection that was far removed from reality. Many seem to feel that the media also became an unwitting tool of the leaders of the movement for projecting the Government and the political class in negative colours that were unwarranted.

3. In the beginning, I myself used to think that the media was playing a pernicious role in providing oxygen ---- as Mrs.Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, used to call it--- to anti-Government and anti-political class elements for commercial reasons.

4. After a half a day spent in the Ramlila Maidan on the afternoon of August 25,2011, I realised that barring certain channels which, in my view, consciously sought to give the movement a distorted projection to the detriment of the Government and the political class, the majority of our TV news channels and print media were largely objective in their coverage.

5. The milling crowds of young people were there for all to see. Their ras-le-bol (fed up) with corruption feelings were there for all to sense. Their admiration for Anna and their disgust with the political class were palpable. Their patriotic fervour was reminiscent of the fervour that I, as a young student, had experienced while attending meetings and rallies addressed by Mahatma Gandhi before 1947.

6. Anna is definitely not another Mahatma Gandhi, but the atmosphere that prevailed during the 12 days of his fast brought to one’s mind the atmosphere that used to prevail at the meetings and rallies of Gandhiji. The disgust of large sections of the youth with the Government and the political class for dragging their feet on the issue of action against corruption played as great a role as their admiration for Anna in galvanising them into uniting against corruption.

7. Large sections of the media did nothing but project this atmosphere marked by disgust for the Government and the political class and admiration for Anna . Yes, the media did use unwarranted hyperboles in its coverage instead of restricting itself to a factual, unvarnished reportage. But the use of hyperboles did not detract from the fact that the ground reality of large sections of the youth in revolt was something historic, the like of which the country had not seen for some years now.

8. It was an electrifying and ennobling atmosphere. Anna and his team of media advisers---many of them whiz kids from the world of the IITs and IT companies--- rose to the occasion and took advantage of the new soft power of the media for giving their movement an extra boost.

9. The Government, its spokespersons and Government- controlled media such as All India Radio and the Doordarshan totally failed to harness the new soft power of the private media outlets to correct an one-sided projection of the movement. If the Government’s version remained untold, the fault is not that of the media. Its commercial machinations alone cannot be blamed for the negative colours in which the Government and the political class appeared.

10.The Government and the various political parties have shown a total disinterest in learning and mastering the various dimensions of the new soft power--- the print media, the private TV news channels, the social media world and the expanding community of netizens--- and harnessing them for correcting the projections to the people--- either of the Anna movement or of the Government and the political class.

11. The fast-expanding soft power of modern media came out loud and clear during the movement. This power needs to be understood, appreciated and suitably harnessed. Instead of learning the right lessons from the role of the media during the 12 days that electrified large sections of India and its youth, the Government’s ill-advised focus seems to be on how to regulate the new soft power of the media. This will be a retrograde step, which needs to be strongly discouraged and deplored.

12. Mr.Prime Minister, instead of remaining confined to an inaccessible shell, get out of it, plunge into the world and sea of the media, learn to speak their language and idiom, interact with them vigorously and encourage them to interact with you and your spokespersons. Media interaction is no longer a one-way street. It is a multi-lane road. Learn to use that road with self-confidence and without complexes.

13. Start today, Mr.Prime Minister. Don’t wait for tomorrow. (31-8-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )


Pratik Das said...

Better still Mr. Prime Minister, quit.

Khalil Sawant said...

If the PMO does not consider the media as a friend, is the media not to an extent responsible for it ?

dubugu said...

Agree to everything, except that the media did not play a bi-partisan role. There were many flaws. They failed to explain how draconian the Jan Lokpal bill was. They failed to show the politics the opposition played in and outside the parliament. At the end they concluded that Team Anna got what they wanted, in reality they did not get what they wanted. One may feel dismayed the fast ended on that note, and begin to question, what was the need for it, if this is the result ? But agree, the PM needs to learn the art of communicating to the media

Krishna Kacker said...

A very timely and well written article.
One only hopes that its contents reach the PMO if not PM himself and result in the powers that are realise that media can be a very effective insrument of pleading the cause of the government just as it can be a formidable opposition.Most major powers realise its importance and use it to their benefit.

kl said...

Dear Mr Raman,

Disappointing to read your article. Cant agree with you except for the suggestion that Govt should desist from the attempt to muzzle the media. You seem to suggest through many of your articles that the issue is only of mismanagement of Anna Hazare movement by an otherwise honest government and not the basic issue of corruption. I cant understand why a seasoned and experienced man form intelligence like you cant understand the basic issue. It’s disgusting to see your suggestions to govt as to how it should interact and manage the media rather than calling upon the Govt and the Political class to address the basic issue of corruption. Aren’t you able to see the rank dishonesty of the Govt in dealing with the corruption ?, aren’t you able to understand that the Govt Lokpal draft is a piece of trash aimed at protecting and preserving the corruption ? why govt is dilly dallying to bring an effective Lokpal (may not be Jan Lokpal but an effective bill) ? isn’t it basic common sense that, the most of the Ministers and MPs (cutting across the party line) are corrupt and if an effective Lokpal bill is passed, its they who have to go to jail first is the ACTUAL REASON why they are stonewalling the enactment of an effective bill ?? Cant a man from intelligence understand at least this much which a common man understands easily ??

Instead of calling upon Govt to show sincerity and urging MPS to realize their responsibility to the people of this country, you want to simply advice the Govt to manage the media properly ?? sorry Mr. Raman, I think you also need to understand the basic issue behind the movement and ponder whether your thoughts are right.

financeblogger said...

If the assumption of the political class is that the movement will wither away by prolonging the matter, they are sadly mistaken. It is only going to add fuel to the fire.The anger and frustration of the people is very much intact.
An effective Lokpal bill has to be passed by the parliament as soon as possible as it is completely in the interest of the political class.

shaan said...

Can free speech be curtailed by setting up committees? May be in Indira's India but not in Anna's India.

Karna Sinha said...

I think you are wasting your time advising the PM to act like a leader. The poor man is completely out of his depth: he is
not a leader. He walks like a wimp, talks like a wimp and acts like a wimp. Don't waste your time
trying to turn a wimp into a macho man.The sycophantic culture of the Congress party will never produce a true leader.

The political class in India is, and has been, despised by the citizens of India. Time for a clean sweep. Get rid of the corrupt, power hungry, deceitful and duplicitous traitors to save the country.

ambi said...

Chill goes down my spine now a days whenever i read ur blogs. So out of depth, so childish and so full of chamchagiri. I really never expected it from u. Anyhow almost all the institutions r congressised. Country is almost thrown to the dogs. Here people r barking against corruption and our president is busy grabbing prime army property for herself at pune. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Kabhi khud pe hasa mein kabhi khud pe roya. Congress is beyond repair.
Its ok that Italy n brazil r not enemy countries of india. So there link to Gandhi family is no direct harm to our external security. But just imagine for a second, tomorrow if rahul’s son or his son falls in love with a Pakistani or Chinese girl who is a secret agent penetrated deliberately by ISI or Chinese intelligence, i even shudder to think our future.

duvijan said...

Dear raman

I used to have good respect for you. For reasons whatever most people write that "Formerly i was also of the opinion, but what happened at Ramlila , i saw the youth seething with Anger on this government which is so arrogant and cares 5 hoots for public opinion". PLease reform. I wonder if the class of your generation officers should have your grey matter verified by Proper scans. What is so obvious is that this Government and Congress party played and is playing all tricks in the trade to Subvert each and every insitution in every possible fashion ! And here we have a security strategist advising that PM should learn to speak after 7 years ! What a joke ! We did a rally in Munich and we said Next time we agreed for a resolution that with Excercising Voting rights and throw this govt out !


Please stop calling yourself a security strategist since if you cannot see the Anti National Security threats posed by this Moronic govt , you can start selling Sambar vadai on the Railway platforms or over the internet ! Disgusted with all the respect i had for you

Eagleeye47 said...

Isn't it too late in the day... for our PM to inculcate change & become media friendly. More so as he seems so averse to speaking / candidly too.
All read out...

It seems like crying of spilt milk...

Islam said...

Thank your for sharing
Messenger of Allah