Andhra Pradesh

Jagan threatens pro-Naidu media houses with defamation cases

“Media houses like Eenadu, Andhra Jyothy and TV5 are known for their pro-Chandrababu Naidu rhetoric as they cannot see any other politician ruling this state. To bring back Naidu to power, they wrote whatever scrap they wanted to defame us.” 

This was YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s first speech after taking over as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. At any other time, say an election campaign or a departmental meeting, such rhetoric would have been fine. But to bring his utter dislike for the three media outfits into his maiden speech as CM, an occasion marked by Jagan signing files enhancing old age pensions, could have been best avoided. 

I say this because it showed two aspects to his personality, both of them not flattering. One, when he said that “if they still write negative stories distorting facts, we shall not hesitate to file defamation cases against them”, it smacked of threat of using government authority. 

Yes, journalism ought to be about truth and any individual or government can explore options like writing to the Press Council, the Broadcasting Authority or taking the media house to court. But when a chief minister says it in black and white, it ends up conveying an impression of power going to his head. It is about the optics, the messaging. 

Two, he is conveying that the media houses are managing to get under his skin with their negative stories, often a figment of their imagination. Showing that he gets irked or rattled by such stories, also does not show the CM in a good light. 

All Jagan needs to do is to remember his own election campaign. Almost the entire vernacular media barring his own Sakshi group, was against him. Much of the national media with Google as its Bible, could not see beyond the allegations of corruption against him. Yet despite no media backing, Jagan managed such a landslide victory, primarily with effective and efficient use of social media. 

That should continue to be his approach now while in government. To use social media intelligently as a tool to interact instead of trying to fix negative mainstream media stories. May be take a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book and use Twitter, radio, Youtube effectively.  

Not that the “yellow media” as the pro-Naidu media is referred to as in Andhra Pradesh also because of TDP’s yellow colour, has changed its stripes since 23 May. After Jagan called Naidu over phone to invite him for his swearing-in ceremony, a few media reports suggested that the CM designate had sought “valuable suggestions” from his predecessor on matter of governance.

YSR Congress Rajya Sabha MP Vijayasai Reddy took offence and accused the TDP of planting such stories. 

“You have created a silly story and propagated it in the media. You have spread news that Jagan had sought your suggestions as you are an experienced leader. You have used all your expertise to loot public money and that is why people have voted for a young leader. Even after losing miserably, you are still spreading lies. We know the fate of all those who have taken your suggestions,” Reddy responded in a series of tweets

While YSRCP may argue that unless such lies are refuted, people will believe them, the point is that the government could do better than frothing at the mouth. The people of Andhra have given Jagan a massive mandate and the last thing they expect from his government is to have it settle scores with Naidu or pro-TDP media houses. Instead, Jagan and his government should focus on getting their communication strategies right and be transparent. 

The TDP also has its share of complaints against the Jagan family-owned Sakshi newspaper and TV channel. Two days ago, Nara Lokesh accused Sakshi TV of spreading false news about him and alleging differences within the TDP after the crushing defeat and threatened legal action.

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