ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Secrecy and Control

Stay tuned for the continuing broadcast of Newspeak from the Ministry of Truth.

The Narendra Modi government cannot make up its mind about the media. Over the past year and more, much of the media could not praise Modi or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enough. Modi got virtually blanket coverage, and even if critical voices found some space, they were drowned out. Modi had no problem with the media. This love-fest, however, did not last long. For one, once he became Prime Minister, Modi refused direct interaction with the media. He kept out private media from his multiple foreign trips restricting access to pliant government-owned media. Furthermore, the message from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to all ministers and bureaucrats was unequivocal: keep the media at a distance. BJP spokespersons and a handful of ministers were authorised to speak. The rest became virtually invisible. Unlike in the past, people now know little of what these ministers do, or think, or what happens in cabinet meetings. A fog of silence seems to have enveloped the central government.

On the other side, one got early signs of a culture of intolerance to dissent or criticism. Thus within days of Modi being elected, seven people were arrested in a college in Kerala for printing Modi’s photograph alongside those of George Bush Jr and Osama bin Laden under the caption “Negative Faces” on the cover of a college magazine, and a naval engineer in Goa was charged under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act for posting negative views about Modi on his Facebook page. In Karnataka, a business management student was charged under the same section for circulating negative content about Modi on WhatsApp.

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