Farmers Protest: Bad journalism is doing more damage than water cannons!

Manipulated mainstream media launched a bigger attack at farmers cause, than water cannons, teargas and lathis did; independent journalists, social media are solutions

farmers protestImage: Reuters

The vegetarian pea pulao looked like Biryani to a Times of India reporter, farmers protesting against laws they deem discriminatory seemed “Khalistani” for others, and some more decided that the farmers were ‘inconveniencing’ the traffic flow by sitting on a peaceful dharna. The same media houses had used the same lines at the same time last year when they were covering the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests at Shaheen Bagh on the other end of Delhi (a site also close to Uttar Pradesh-Delhi-Haryana link roads). Of course there the protestors were deemed Anti national/ Pakistani/ terrorists. Women protesters at both places were, and are being labeled ‘available for hire’ the ‘rate’ was Rs 100-500. Biryani ‘being served at the protest’ was on top of the manipulative media’s news menu.


Mainstream media doing its best to damage a peaceful civil society protest is not a new phenomenon, but it has now become the norm, and all masks of basic tenet of journalism to be factual has been disposed of. Some take great pride that they are ‘nationalist’ which now just means pro establishment. Even the so-called ‘balanced’ reportage seen in some newspapers has now begun to be colloured in a bright shade of sensationalism bordered with right wing narrative.

Since November 26, when thousands of protesting farmers managed to reach the  Delhi-Haryana Singhu-Tikri border after surviving water cannons, razor wire, tear gas attacks, reports had already been aired of how the farmers ‘removed’ barricades, and jammed traffic. By the time the truck caravan reached the farmers had been branded Khalistani supporters, backed by the fact that some of the younger men at the protest were wearing modern clothes, spoke English, and had cell phones. Mainstream media zeroed in on the odd ones out at the protest who would give them the soundbytes they wanted about Khalistan etc.

According to a detailed report in Newslaundry channels like Zee News were among those who claimed there were Khalistan supporters at the farmers’ agitation. The report quoted some farmers’ angry response, “The ones calling us Khalistani are the ones who are not Indian themselves…”  Karandeep Singh, a farmer from Punjab, added: “We still want the media to cover out stories. We are simply asking that you report what you see, not what you create.” Channels like Zee were soon called ‘godi media’ or media sitting obediently in the laps of those in power, and shooed away from the protest sites. 


However while the ‘godi media’ and the right wing online team did its best to find elements to the biggest blow yet to find elements that could help them discredit, and destroy the farmers movement the biggest blow came from an interview by Barkha Dutt one of the best known independent journalists today. Many had noticed the viral video clip of a well dressed english speaking Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu, saying ‘this is a revolution sir’ in conversation with a police officer at the protest. 

It was Dutt who managed to get an exclusive interview with him on her YouTube channel ‘Mojo Story’. The interview went downhill in minutes when Sidhu spoke about Khalistan, and instead of cutting him off and shutting him down, Dutt fuelled the conversation towards controversy and began ‘educating’ him about the Khalistan movement, and its leader Janail Singh Bhindranwale, an extremely complicated and multilayered subject that has nothing to do with the new Farm Laws and the farmers movement. 

“Had great expectations after seeing him in a viral video negotiating at the barricades. Ended up in a massive fight. I believe his words have really hurt the Farmers Cause” Dutt stated. However, she does not explain why she did not cut him off, denying him airtime if he spoke of supporting the man who is accused of terror. The fact that the interview went ahead was all the fuel team Right Wing, and anti farmer media houses needed. “Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a fighter. He was fighting for a strong federal structure,” Sidhu had said. This is still being quoted and used by those sections to tag the farmers’ protest as being ‘Khalistani’ in nature or affiliation days after it aired.

However, many social media users in fact flagged that actor Deep Sidhu was close to actor-politicians Sunny Deol and his family, and had even met the Prime Minister with them. He had said “I was involved in the political campaigning of BJP’s Mr Deol (Sunny Deol) from Gurdaspur constituency, I share a close relationship with him and I was a part of the BJP campaign.” Some alleged that Sidhu may have been ‘planted’ to sabotage the protests by talking about Khalistan. But the media should have seen through the plant if it was there as alleged.



Later, reporting from the protest site Dutt went on to speak about “the Langar, the volunteers who run it, feeding even the police who has at times turned their lathis and cannons on these men & women” However by then the ‘Deep Sidhu talks about Khalistan angle’ damage had been done, and amplified by those who were waiting for it.



Those not attacking the farmers protest directly, have also started talking about how good the new farm laws are quoting an article in The Hindustan Times about a Maharashtra farmer who managed to recover money owed to him by traders.

That he was one farmer, out of many lakhs who fear they will face a future of near starvation if the new laws are not repealed as they want is lost on mainstream media. As independent journalist Saahil Menghani put it: “It’s clearer now that corporate-media is anti-poor/farmer. That’s the nature of anything run by corporates”



In the fallout, it is the ground reporter who is now suffering, and in some places being targeted for how the media is now being seen at the various protest sites.



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Punjab CM did not stop farm bills when he could: Arvind Kejriwal

Govt buys itself time to negotiate, tells farmer unions to submit point-by-point objections

Intentions as pure as Gangajal: PM to farmers

If Modi really cares about Nanak’s teachings, he must treat farmers with respect 

Women farmers worst hit by anti-farmer laws: National Women’s Organisations




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