Telangana Minister of Industries K T Rama Rao came down heavily on India’s Leading Business Newspaper Economic Times for its article on the new land scam in Hyderabad, titled ‘Largest realty scam in Telangana worth Rs. 15,000 cr ; Google, Microsoft also affected’, KTR take on the sustained vilification campaign by certain media houses on Telangana.
KTR posted , Deliberate attempt to dent the image of a fledgling State
We in India treat our media with so much respect that it is called the Fourth Pillar of our Democracy. It is generally agreed that in modern democratic nations media plays an extremely important role along with the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. In fact, the press and the media becomes an extremely powerful institution, being the watchdog of a democracy. Newspaper houses in India have been leading from the front in taking on political system when they go corrupt, uncovering and exposing the complicit deals when they happen, and in certain cases have changed the fortunes of elected leaders to keep our democracy vibrant and thriving.
And thankfully, India has ensured that its media is completely free for most part of our post-Independence history. In this regard, the media is generally given far more leeway in how they conduct themselves enjoying the freedom that is not extended to the other three official pillars. And our media houses have used this freedom quite responsibly to play an important role in creating a mature Indian democracy.
With such great power vested in Indian media houses comes a very great responsibility. And yet, some of the media houses have misused this freedom to be reckless in sensationalism causing damage to our society. So, where does the freedom to sensationalize stop, and where does the responsibility and accountability start? Such questions are far more relevant in case of Telangana, because it has been a victim of such uninformed and malicious reporting during the time of Telangana Movement. Some newspapers and TV channels have negatively depicted the Statehood Movement, deriding its leaders and prognosticating a doomsday scenario for the new State.
In spite of heavy lobbying and negative campaign from the media, Telangana State became a reality. After the formation of Telangana in 2014, most newspapers in the country have accepted the existence of a new State, dropped their antipathy, and took on a neutral or passive stand. But few newspapers continued to vilify the new State without even giving it a breathing space. It appears they have taken on the intention to sabotage the efforts put in by the fledgling state. Within 4 weeks after the formation of Telangana, Economic Times (ET) published an unsubstantiated news item that nearly 700 firms from Hyderabad have shifted to Andhra Pradesh (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/…/articles…/37108136.cms), when in reality no such thing happened. Another uncorroborated article followed within a month that was intended to send an ominous signal to the investors across the globe that things are not right with Telangana. ET has gone on an overdrive to create baseless stories with an active intent to denigrate the State. Over the last 3 years, the Chief of Bureau of ET in Hyderabad has been writing a series of negative stories on Telangana. And whenever a major investor started their operations in Telangana, the Chief of Bureau of ET was conspicuous by his absence at the launch event. There is a clear pattern in these manoeuvres and articles. Looks like ET has been continuing its efforts to denigrate Telangana in the eyes of investors.
This is not the first the time the State has faced its detractors. During the Telangana Movement, there were many naysayers. Those who stood against the formation presaged that the State shall plunge itself into darkness. But today Telangana uniquely boasts of uninterrupted power supply to its industry even at the peak of the summer. It was foretold that the industry would flee the new State and that its economy would plummet, but the exact opposite is being witnessed. Telangana is growing faster than the country average in the share of IT industry output, and its per capita income is one of the fastest growing in the country.
Right now, Telangana has 4 out of global top 5 tech companies based out of Hyderabad. It boasts of several marquee names such as Microsoft, Google Apple, Amazon, Uber, Salesforce, Boeing, DBS, ZF etc. In the last 2 years, after passing the historic and unprecedented TS-iPASS, which gives approvals in 15 days as a statute of law, Telangana has given clearance to 3828 companies of which nearly 50% are operational. The new State has created additional 1,09,495 jobs in IT and 2,28,355 jobs in industry, and its GDP is increasing at 10.1%, second highest in the country. Almost every industry leader who has interacted and worked with the State Government has gone on record to compliment the dynamism of the state administration.
It is unfortunate that while the new State is working hard to improve its economy and employment by bringing in new industry, some of the news agencies are publishing paid articles and spreading canards only to malign the State. With the recent article titled ‘Largest realty scam in Telangana worth Rs. 15,000; Google, Microsoft also affected’, Economic Times has reached a new low in sensational journalism. Most of the cases referred to in the article are from the time before the formation of Telangana – some of them are over 10 years old. It is a well-known fact that the new State inherited a legacy fraught with complicit deals. One of the “scams” referred to in the article was in fact unearthed in an internal audit by the Telangana Government. And it has already set in motion the corrective measures. The ET article mentions Google and Microsoft only to attract international audience but fails to quote any of the officials from those organization. Clearly, the entire article is fabricated, using some incidents that happened before the formation of Telangana to mischievously tarnish the image of the new State in the eyes of the investors.
Even the real estate firms operating in the State, like JLL and CBRE, have refuted this article and made it clear that this is speculative and incorrect.
There is a consistent pattern to how Economic Times has been portraying Telangana. The intentions are nefarious. This calls for an important debate in this country. Can a newspaper get away with any kind of news reporting? Can it actively engage to sabotage a State and its future? Can it publish paid articles and fake news to malign a State Government and its sincere efforts? A newspaper is supposed to report news as it happens, provide opinion, conduct investigation and report it after authentication, and may also participate in sensationalism to boost its readership. What happens when sensationalism dominates all other spheres, when fiction is passed off as news, when opinion and facts are mixed, and when speculation is represented as investigation? Is ET being a responsible newspaper when it comes to its reporting on Telangana or is it being just selling its space to paid articles?
When a politician is corrupt, we have means available to prosecute him through legal methods, or oust him in elections. But what can a nation do when the watchdog itself becomes corrupt, posing a greater threat to Indian democracy?