SABe TV and Iftikar Gilani

BY mannika| IN Media Practice | 21/01/2003
The interview was a classic example of the triumph of headline hunting over quality; of bias over balance.

(Extracted from Remote Control, The Statesman, January 17, 2003)


Mannika Chopra


It was only a matter of time before television channels swooped down to interview the Kashmiri journalist, Syed Iftikar Gilani who was released from a seven-month stint in jail this week. Gilani`s case showed how much  the current establishment revers press freedom. The journalist, along with a large section of the media community,  had been protesting his innocence from the day he was handcuffed and bunged behind bars.

So who got there first? Apparently Sabe TV who billed it as an exclusive as the red ticker tape told us repeatedly but, wait a second, didn`t I see a considerably shriveled Gilani on Jain TV and a number of other channels before he had a tete-a-tete with Swati Chaturvedi on  `Kuch Khas Batein?’  Maybe I was seeing a repeat telecast on SabeTV.

"Be that as it may", as a well-known editor was known to write in every third edit of his. The interview was a classic example of the triumph of headline hunting over quality; of bias over balance. Chaturvedi who in the past has been known to buttonhole the likes of Uma Bharati, Pravin Togadia and Raj Thackeray seemed anxious to find out whether Gilani`s views (read loyalty) towards the Indian state had changed after his tryst with Tihar. From suitable directness she changed her approach to that of bold and reckless.

Tresses flying, Chaturvedi badgered first softly, then sternly. It was a mixture of humour, bile and smidgens of score settling. She questioned the scribe on how he, as a Kashmiri Muslim, now felt towards the Indian establishment which had unfairly incarcerated him? How he, as the son-in-law of the hard line Hurriyat leader, Syeed Geelani, now felt about
Kashmir`s accession to Pakistan? She asked him when he would join politics. She, unsuccessfully, tried to hound the journalist into saying that had this incident happened in Pakistan it was unlikely that he would have been released at all.

Tell me should Gilani have been grateful for being jailed for seven
months in
rather than how ever many years he would have been in
?  Should he have been whooping with joy, sending perfumed
thank you notes to the government for being put in jail for over 200
days for no fault of his and then being set free by the Supreme Court?

It almost seemed that Chaturvedi was hoping to provoke Gilani into
saying something that would have given some comfort to the Ministry of Home Affairs and somehow justified what it had done. Or worse perhaps put him back in the slammer. In the process of this hounding the arc of Geelani`s tumultuous story got left behind and its absence entirely distorted the tenor of the dialogue.




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