What happened at the journalists meeting with the PM?
Recently, some journalists from Tamilnadu had met with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, at Delhi. Although it was said to be a courtesy call meeting, it led to many speculations amongst the public…and about Vikatan too. There is absolutely no connection between the happenings at the Vikatan newsroom and the ideas that the speculations wish to spread about the encounter. Mr. B. Srinivasan, Managing Director of the Vikatan Group and the Editor of Ananda Vikatan was also one of the attendees at that meeting. How did it come to be? What happened in there? What is Vikatan’s reaction to the speculations doing the rounds in public forums? These were some of the questions that ran in my mind. I asked him if he could share his experience openly with us. Here it is, in his own words…
When was this meeting with the PM planned?
One day…I got a telephone call. The caller was the Defence Minister, Mrs. Nirmala Seetharaman. She said, “The prime minister would like to invite you for a courtesy call meeting with journalists from Tamilnadu. He is definitely expecting your presence. Since the PM’s previously planned meeting with journalists at Chennai did not happen due to unavoidable circumstances, we have now arranged for it in Delhi.” Thus, the meeting happened in Delhi on July 30th, at about 6 PM.
Why did you agree to meet the PM?
As mentioned during the invitation, it was a courtesy call. This is not the first time that journalists are meeting Prime Ministers and definitely, it will not be the last time. I thought this was a good chance for me to share my comments and opinions about the performance of the Indian Government. This was also too good an opportunity to miss to discuss with the PM about the mood of the average Indian citizen as well as the everyday concerns of the common man. So, I agreed! "
What happened in the meet?
We were seated in a room with seating capacity for 25 people. Three of the seats were empty. At 6:19 p.m, the PM arrived. After greeting us, he sat down. Defence Minister Mrs. Nirmala Seetharaman and Union Minister Mr. Pon. Radhakrishnan were seated near him. Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore joined the discussion later. The PM began the discussion with, “I wanted to meet each of you personally. But due to the day-to-day activities and responsibilities, that was not possible. So, we arranged for this get-together. We can discuss about issues the Tamil media is facing. Let this not be a formal conversation. You can speak your mind. But, everything we discuss here is off-the-record.” The evening was filled with interesting conversation that ranged from ‘Trending Tension’ to a 200-year-old reservoir and ended with a tea party.
You said that PM Modi mentioned that the meeting was off-the-record. But can you share what was the crux of the discussion?
Hmm…It was basically about the everyday events, current affairs and their background like, for example, the NEET controversy, the problems faced due to water resources in Tamilnadu, Tasmac issues, the difficulties of Sri Lankan refugees, the attacks on journalists and media, the boons and banes of social media and so on. He was very interested to know about the journalist’s take on everything from prosperous Tamilnadu to Whatsapp rumours.
Do you think that the PM arranged for this meet only to understand the psyche of the Tamilnadu journalists?
I think that was also an intention. What he said at the end of the meeting gave a glimpse of what was on his mind. He said, “I request only one thing from all of you at this meeting. Instead of reporting “This is what the Prime Minister said” or “The Prime Minister met so-and-so”, please report on the effectiveness of the government’s schemes. Find out and report if it has reached even the poorest of the poor. Write about your analysis of the last-mile connectivity. If the government is lacking, do not hesitate to critique it too. If you believe the schemes we have brought out has benefited the people and you have confirmed it as a fact, then don’t forget to report on that too!”
Should we read between the lines and take it to indirectly mean that from now on we should only publish news that favours the ruling BJP government?
Ha..ha…In the digital age that we live in, where even superpowers and the high and mighty have been brought to their knees by individuals, is it even possible? I don’t believe so. I felt that the discussion with Mr. Modi was both very open and healthy.
What is your response to the conjecture that, after the meeting with the Prime Minister, there would be a wave of news favouring the BJP in Vikatan’s print, digital and visual media?
Whether it is the Central Government or the State Government…Based on their performance, Vikatan will continue to record its appreciation, scrutiny and criticism as it has always done. It is not just for the current BJP government…it is Vikatan’s 92-year-old code of media ethics!
It seemed like this courtesy call meeting between the PM and the journalists was kept under wraps!
The meeting happened very normally. It was specified that the meeting was off-the-record. So, I have intention to either advertise or cover it up! But, the details and photographs of the meeting came out unofficially and I was surprised that the meeting was described as a secret one. Moreover, due to this meeting, there were attempts made to tarnish Vikatan’s reporting and reputation. But we are not worried about baseless rumours. This is my reply to those who want to know what happened in the meeting with the PM! . was Vikatan was sullied because of this meeting. Irrespective of the admirers praise or the critics disapproval…Vikatan will continue to do his job.
Do you have any about how the information and photographs about the meeting was released?
I am truly clueless about that!
What is your reply to the comment, “Whatever you say, after the meeting with the PM, Vikatan will start favouring the BJP!”
As I had said earlier, it was a courtesy call meeting with the PM. If people take it as a chance to say that because of this Vikatan will start favouring the BJP, what can I do?! I have met many leaders on behalf of Vikatan before. We have written about the pros and cons of various regimes and political parties at Vikatan. At those times too, we faced such criticisms.
When the DMK was in power, Vikatan was called “Poonool Magazine” and “Avaal Magazine” indicating that it was a Brahmin sympathiser. When we severely criticised Jayalalitha’s rule, we were slapped with numerous defamation cases. Till date, we are fighting these cases at court seeking legal relief. When we critiqued about Vaiko’s political actions, we faced the propaganda that DMK had bought Junior Vikatan. Some people even called us a “DMK aide”. We did a detailed assessment of the pros and cons of both DMK and ADMK ministers during their respective regimes in our ‘Mantri Tantri’ series in Ananda Vikatan. All of this well-known and common knowledge to all our loyal and loving readers. Recently, we have been labelled as ‘anti-Indian’, ‘anti-Brahmin’, ‘naxal’, etc. I will not be surprised if the label of ‘BJP bhakt’ is added to that list. Just like how only the tree laden with fruits is stoned, only the one doing good is criticised.
I would like to add one final point..
Without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, Vikatan has always been both the supporter and critic of all political parties. It will always continue to be so. When Vikatan will be the supporter and when he will be the critic is determined only by the deeds of the political parties, not by Vikatan! Because, then…now… and always, Vikatan trusts only in one leader … The Vikatan reader!
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