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Odisha Minister Damodar Rout Plays Media Censor, Is A Dangerous Trend Setting In?


21 December 2017

Sangita Agarwal


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Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout’s admonishment of the waiting news camerapersons and the reporters at the secretariat, asking only a select few to enter for his byte, can be portrayed by many as the result of a sudden spurt of anger from the senior BJD minister.

But if one scratches the surface, one will realise that there is more to this incident than only his anger. It can be seen as gagging the media at the venue, where he chose to pick a few ‘supporting’ channels and asked the others to stay out.

According to senior journalist Sandeep Sahu, “Everyone, including the politicians has a right to say ‘No’. He can refuse to speak to the media as a whole, but you cannot pick and choose. You cannot allow a couple of news channels to gather byte and refuse the same to others. This is a very dangerous trend all the more unfortunate as it coming from a person who loves to be in the limelight.”

When asked about the probable reason behind such an act of the minister, the senior journalist opined, “Presently, he is in a soup after his statement against the Brahmins, for which he has received flak from all quarters including his own party. He is prone to make such outrageous statements and got away far too long. It is high time that the party chief should step in and warn him not to make any such kind of statements in the media. The media persons also can plan some kind of protest giving everyone a strong message that they can’t pick and choose. They have to either speak to the media or deny.”

Manoranjan Mishra, Editor, Kanak News spurted out, “The anger-eruption of the politicians towards media is an undemocratic move. Media is just a platform to portray the views of the ministers and politicians. We do not have any personal motive, but relay their messages to the general public. A senior leader like Damodar Rout to react in this manner is not at all expected.”

Talking about the Agriculture Minister’s behaviour, he added, “If a minister of his stature will pick and choose media houses before speaking up, then there will be wrong message sent across and people will try to please each other, thus suppressing the truth and giving an undemocratic twist. We act just as messengers. If a politician gives his views on a public platform, it is our duty to bring forth the views to the public, whether it appeals to the politician or not. If such incidents provoke anger among some politicians, then it is just the violation of our democratic set-up.”

Though Damodar Rout has reasons to feel annoyed with the media, but this attempt to gag the media is a subject of ridicule.

“If we say something against a particular party, say the BJD, then they may even bar us from attending their press conference or may even decline to participate in live debates of our TV channels. So media will try to please the politicians in the long run and will do as they please to be in work. This is a very dangerous trend. I believe that we should not get distracted by such incidents and try to pose our calm and do our work irrespective of the behaviour of some errant politicians,” said the news editor.

Such incidents turn into a dangerous trend which is not even realised by many journalists. It is not about the high ideals of the freedom of press, but it can be seen as precedence to censor the media.

The veteran journalist Sandeep Sahu speaks on the responsibilities of the media persons also. According to him, “Media cannot escape the blame altogether. We have provoked him into saying things that he shouldn’t be saying. So media should put a kind of restraint on themselves and should not give him much footage.”

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Sandeep Sahu, Senior Journalist

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Manoranjan Mishra, Editor, Kanak News