Media caught in political crossfire in Andhra Pradesh

Updated 6:50 PM, 1 June, 2019
The media houses in Andhra are divided along party lines much to the detriment of news.

The bitterness and rancour that marked the campaign in Andhra Pradesh is refusing to subside even after the change of guard post elections. The media houses are now caught in a political crossfire. In a state where both the print and electronic media are sharply divided on political lines and often run stories in a shrill, campaign tone, the line between the news and views is often blurred.

Post-elections, the battle lines are drawn afresh. The former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh has shot off a letter to Sakshi TV, owned by the newly-elected Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, asking it to retract a story attributing certain remarks to him and to stop spreading fake news about him.

Lokesh suffered a humiliating defeat in Mangalagiri Assembly constituency. Five days after the election results were announced, Sakshi TV, which earlier ran a massive campaign against the TDP government, carried a story saying that Lokesh had blamed his own party leaders for his and his party’s defeat.

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On May 28, Sakshi channel carried a “breaking news” quoting Lokesh as having said “The party workers and leaders are responsible for our defeat. When leaders like Galla Jayadev (MP from Guntur) have won, why have the others lost? It is the leaders who have betrayed Chandrababu Naidu. If EVMs have betrayed him 10%, party workers have betrayed him 90%.”

The report infuriated Lokesh who wrote to K Ramachandra Murthy, Editorial Director of Sakshi Media Group strongly condemning the “fake news” being spread against him.

The media house is owned by the family members of Jagan. His wife YS Bharati Reddy is the chairperson of Sakshi Publications and Sakshi TV.

Lokesh claimed in the letter that he was in the TDP’s office at Mangalagiri, participating in the birth anniversary celebrations of the party founder and former Chief Minister of combined Andhra Pradesh N T Rama Rao whereas the media report claimed that he had made the remarks in the presence of his father Chandrababu Naidu other party leaders at the Guntur TDP office. The 96th birth anniversary of NTR was celebrated by TDP members across the state on May 28.

“I strongly condemn the manufactured news intended to damage my reputation. I request that under your leadership, the channel must denounce the false news that has been telecast. If not, I will take legal recourse for the damage caused to my reputation,” the scion of the TDP’s first family said in the letter.

“It is unfortunate that even other media organisations are also following this toxic news spread by Sakshi. I have written a letter to the Sakshi media group Editorial Director, who is responsible for all of this, to denounce this fake news, to respond promptly on this issue and take action,” he tweeted later.

Jagan threatens action against media

On his part, Jagan used the occasion of his swearing-in to launch a blistering attack against a section of the media for running a malicious campaign against him.

In his first address soon after taking oath as Chief Minister in the presence of a huge gathering at Indira Gandhi stadium in Vijayawada, Jagan named three media organisations—Eenadu, Andhra Jyothy and TV5—for carrying out a sustained vilification campaign against him and his family.

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

Pledging to usher in transparent governance to make AP a corrupt-free state, the Chief Minister said, “If they (the three media groups) still write negative stories distorting facts, we will not hesitate to file defamation cases against them.”

The YSR Congress Party leaders also alleged that a section of the media had deliberately distorted the conversation that Jagan had during his courtesy call to Chandrababu Naidu to invite him for the swearing-in ceremony. A section of the media reported that Jagan had sought “valuable advice” from his predecessor on matters of governance.

“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,” Vijaysai Reddy, the YSRCP Rajya Sabha member said in a series of tweets.

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