Five new Rafale fighter jets were added to the Indian Air Force’s arsenal yesterday, and the country’s TV news channels made sure that nobody was missing out on the development. The fighter jets’ maiden voyage to India has been exhaustively covered, cheered, championed from studios in India, with anchors celebrating what is essentially a routine military acquisition as if it were a resounding triumph. With a deal having been signed months earlier, celebrating the preordained arrival of the jets is like throwing a party when Zomato delivers the food you have already paid for. But India’s news anchors are not known for restraint or measured reporting in 2020. Their enthusiasm to trumpet the acquisition of the Rafale jets has also led to another round of stock-taking of the standards of their journalism on social media.
Defence expert Ajai Shukla was far from impressed. Shekhar Gupta, the founder-editor of The Print, pointed out that the incessant coverage of the Rafales’ journey would make India a “global laughing stock”. Sure enough, an assistant professor of political science from University of Albany in the US was one of those who picked up on the non-stop reporting and wondered if any other aircraft ferry flight had been so extensively covered.
MK Venu, one of the founding editors of The Wire, compared the present craze over the Rafale jets with the acquisition of Mirage-2000s in the past, noting that not even government channels fawned over the purchase as eagerly as today’s news anchors.
Rohan Venkat suggested that news channels were merely taking up a supportive stance on the issue by creating noise that would drown out questions over all the controversies that preceded the acquisition of the Rafales.
Writer Debashish Roy Choudhury pointed out that making such a huge deal over five fighter jets makes India’s military look under-equipped, which is not ideal at a time when border tensions with China are at their highest in years.
Manisha Pande, editor of Newslaundry, asked, “Desh main aur kuch nahin ho raha kya?”, as news channels went all out on covering the ferry flight of the Rafales even as floods ravage parts of the country, and sweeping changes were being introduced to the education system.
Some could not rein in their sarcasm. Barring a few exceptions, the Indian news landscape seems to be committed to making much noise, but saying very little of worth.
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