Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled three-hour visit to India’s largest warship, INS Vikramaditya, is touted to be his first major defence show. But even before Modi boards the aircraft carrier on Saturday, the event has left media unhappy.
The Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) of the Ministry of Defence and the navy have made a select list of around 20 main stream media correspondents from the national capital to accompany the PM to INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-tonne Kiev-class warship, for coverage of this power projection.
Media left out of event
This list has left representatives of nearly two-thirds of the mainstream media out of the PM’s first defence event. This has not gone down well with several newspapers and television channels, which will be denied the opportunity to cover an event being held with taxpayers’ money.
This privileged list, say many on the defence beat, appears to have been drawn without much rationale, criteria or application of mind.
The navy-organized event would be of much interest to readers in India’s coastal states. But only one newspaper with a base in coastal states — The Hindu — will have a presence at the event. Other newspapers based in coastal states such as the Deccan Chronicle or Deccan Herald or the New Indian Express will find no place.
While a couple of Hindi newspapers — Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar — will have their correspondents at the event, there will be no representation of regional language newspapers.
If selection of representatives of newspapers at the event was done on the basis of their respective circulation, then questions are being raised as to how some newspapers, which cannot compare in numbers with newspapers left out, are on the media team invited to cover the event.
Even of the television news channels on the trip, of the five English news channels at the national level, only NewsX has been left out, while the rest are on the list. NewsX, incidentally, enjoys at least as much viewership as at least two of the TV channels being represented on the media team going to Goa.
Further, it appears bad behaviour by journalists on the defence beat has been rewarded by the DPR with a place on this list. One journalist threw a tantrum and started a blazing row upon being left out of this list, following which, the hapless DPR was forced to concede a place on the trip.
This is not the first time that the DPR has bent when faced with a hissy fit by a journalist.
Under A K Antony, the ministry routinely acquiesced to the serial bad behaviour and demands of some beat reporters, irrespective of rationale or merit.
This appears to be one practice that has not changed with the new government and has left other journalists wondering if they should also resort to such behaviour in future.