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Tamil Nadu Journos Slam BJP for Accusing it of Being Pro-DMK

Neelambaran A |
State BJP leaders have been making derogatory remarks against the media for the last few years.
Journalists protest against BJP state president K Annamalai in front of the Chennai Press Club. (Courtesy: CMPC)

Journalists protest against BJP state president K Annamalai in front of the Chennai Press Club. (Courtesy: CMPC)

The media in Tamil Nadu has strongly criticised Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai for his derogatory remarks against journalists in the state and accusing them of being biased towards the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Several media organisations, including the Madras Union of Journalists, the Chennai Press Club and the Centre of Media Persons for Change (CMPC), protested Annamalai’s recent remarks in the state capital and demanded an apology.

During a press conference held on May 27 after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chennai, Annamalai suggested to a journalist to take money from the DMK office for questioning the display of BJP flags on the medians of roads despite a Madras High Court order to the contrary.

A heated argument ensued with Annamalai saying, “You have spoken for three minutes. Arivalayam (the DMK headquarters) would be happy. Take Rs 2,000 today” implying that the journalist was paid by the DMK to question BJP leaders. Annamalai also accused chief minister MK Stalin of unappalling behaviour in the presence of Modi. 

“He has the right to answer questions and, in case, he felt the question didn’t deserve an answer, he could have moved on. But what Annamalai did despite being in public life is unacceptable,” Bharathi Tamizhan, joint secretary, Chennai Press Club, said during the protest. “If the BJP president has any proof of journalists or any media person being bribed by DMK or other political parties, he has the right to produce it in the public sphere. Instead, he has proved that he is intolerant.”

Senior journalist Lakshmi Subramanian accused the BJP of providing mobile phones to journalists in boxes of sweets. “During Diwali last year, the BJP offered boxes of sweets containing mobile phones to many journalists. Is that not bribing the journalists?” she questioned during the protest.

This is not the first time a BJP leader has accused the media of being against the party or tried to intimidate journalists. During a public rally in Namakkal on July 15, 2021, a week after the party’s former state president L Murugan was sworn in as minister of state in the information and broadcasting ministry, Annamalai said, “Within the next six months, you will see that we can bring the media under our control, take them over ... you don’t worry about anything.”

Several other BJP leaders, including its former state president H Raja, have accused the media of being pro-DMK and anti-BJP. Raja, notorious for making derogatory comments against the media and politicians, on multiple occasions had accused the media of being anti-Modi. S Ve Sekar, another BJP leader, faced probe for his comments on women journalists.  

In July 2020, right-wing YouTuber Maridhas accused branded certain state journalists as Leftists, Periyarists and pro-DMK. What followed was the character assassination of several journalists, including women, by the BJP’s troll army.

Maridhas claimed to have received a response from the CEO of a famous media group on taking action against such journalists. After his claim was found to be fake, the media group filed a case against him.

“Every individual has the right to have his/her opinion, including journalists. The intimidating tactics have been used for a long time to silence journalists,” Tamizhan said.

Mohammed Hasif, a CMPC office-bearer, refuted the BJP’s allegations against the media. “Several mainstream media outlets are selective on what to speak and what not to speak. The BJP’s belief that the media is against them is not at all true,” he said.

Another journalist Manoj Prabhakar took to Twitter to voice his opinion. “This party is growing owing to the over-priority given by the media. Poor journalists are being shamed,” he tweeted. “When Annamalai spoke of controlling the media almost a year ago, the party made its intentions clear. But the party is left defenceless when questioned.”

At a recent press meet, Annamalai had accused the DMK of permitting “even the YouTube channels” to criticise the BJP. “The BJP has a grudge against the digital media as these independent channels have exposed the party on its divisive tactics,” Hasif said.

The CMPC quoted the definition of journalists in ‘The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020’ and demanded Annamalai not to denigrate them. Meanwhile, the BJP leader has not offered apology for his comments but went on to take on the CMPC on Twitter against the protest.

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