Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi Facts

Information and analysis about Narendra Modi, India's new prime minister.

Is the media anti-Modi?

It is often claimed by Modi supporters that the media is biased against Modi. Narendra Modi himself has claimed: "The media has taken upon itself the responsibility of spreading lies against me." It is true that there is high coverage of Modi in print, television and electronic media, by both critical and supportive journalists and commentators. Cyberspace reveals more pro-Modi activity than anti-Modi activity. On the first pages of a Google search are his own propaganda site, his youtube and twitter feeds, and many sites set up by his supporters. Comments on articles are usually dominated by "cyber activists" who also generate huge volumes of pro-Hindutva activity on Twitter, with frequent posting of doctored images designed to spread communal hatred. Some commentators have observed that Modi's support in the media extends to commentators who do not identify with the Sangh Parivar.

The Modi team is known for its attempts at tight control of media coverage of him giving journalists lists of dos and don'ts and leading to concern about the implications for press freedom if Modi is elected. On the other hand, some sections of the media present spin on Modi's behalf: a senior BJP leader observed "television news media is doing the job for us". There are examples of the media carrying false stories glorifying Modi, and uncritically carrying factually incorrect statements made by Modi. In the mainstream media, there is rarely any persistent questioning of Modi on his record − examples are nearly impossible to find. Instead journalists sometimes prefer to ask trivial questions about his favourite movie or what time he wakes up in the morning. Modi's reaction to difficult questioning can be seen in the following interview from 2007 where Modi walks out on a persistent journalist (Karan Thapar). On the other hand, there is evidence that journalists critical of Modi are increasingly being silenced, facing both direct threats and pressure, and pressure from media managers preparing for the possibility Modi will come to power (see here for more examples of journalists being victimised).

In fact, the "anti-Modi bias" seems to be largely a creation of Modi's PR machine. Consider the case of Madhu Kishwar who talks about the supposed "Modi-phobia" in her lengthy defense of Modi, now often used to refute anti-Modi arguments. The flaws in her arguments have been pointed out by many commentators. e.g. pieces in Kafila by Zahir Janmohamed and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. What is less well known is that her switch from Modi-critic to supporter came after her invitation to a "luncheon meeting" with Modi, organised by his PR machine.

Media and censorship in our news pages.