Why PM Narendra Modi avoids the media - The Financial Express
Hon'ble Prime Minister of India Latest Press Releases Curtain Raiser Conference - 4th International Exhibition on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. Seven years after the interview when he was elected to the PMO, set to be the first PM in India's history to have not held a press conference. "He has not spoken about his vision for India because he doesn't know what his vision really is. Governance does not mean you reach France.
This tradition enabled the press corps to interact with top officials and ministers accompanying the prime minister and in turn made the government accountable to the people — a fairly standard practice in most democracies. Modi has made no secret of his disdain for the media and has given carefully choreographed interviews only to two friendly channels.
In one case, Modi wore the colours of the group and the said group took out full-page advertisements launching their telecom foray.
'Modi not held a press meet in last 4 years,' says Manmohan Singh in B'luru
Even if you have a PIB card, you are now expected to disclose which official you are meeting. The official is subsequently subjected to hostile questioning. While the government may be gleeful, the citizens are poorer as the government is using intimidation to cover up information it does not want leaked. This clearly is a PM who truly believes that he is above institutional scrutiny whether from the media or citizens.
A watchful eye Modi has also discontinued the practice of the prime minister having a press advisor who used to be a point person for the media.
Before Modi, all prime ministers, including Atal Behari Vajpayee, had a senior journalist or an official as press advisor. Now the media has no clue as to whom to call in the PMO. A trusted Modi aide has been deployed even in the Central Hall of Parliament where journalists earlier had access to members of parliament and ministers. Clearly those so openly watched and listed now avoid journalists for dear life.
Gujarat journalists who have covered Modi as chief minister are not remotely surprised.
They say Modi employed similar methods in Gandhinagar to completely freeze the press out. Usually most politicians are able to maintain healthy relationships with enough segments of media to have atleast a level playing field. Avoiding press conferences lets him keep that aggression at bay. Controlling the narrative Sans such press events, he relies on media that are his strengths — charismatic monologues in public speeches, his radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat and a few other formats.
Not only does that let him speak uninhibitedly, say what he want without interruptions or questions, but he can create escalated narratives the get picked up by and amplified several times over. In this manner, he leaves next to nothing up to interpretation, or at the risk to be misconstrued. Reach Beyond what he gains, it is also a question of what he loses while doing so.
He has his monthly own radio broadcast which is heard by millions of people directly. He makes limited speeches in the parliament but and perhaps, therefore each is considered more impactful. One could argue that by not holding press conferences he does not lose much in terms of reach.
One of the eventual outcome derived from the output of press conferences is being picked by major news portals and social media, which happens through the formats on which he relies, anyway.
Perhaps the tradeoff is not that large.
News Updates | Prime Minister of India
Reputation But to what extent is he trading off his reputation as an approachable, transparent and accountable leader? It is imperative to wonder whether these tangible benefits are worth the loss in reputation and respect that he suffers as a consequence.
The question is best answered by those to whom his reputation matters the most — his core following and those sitting on the fence. Perhaps this approach makes him seem more in control, by taking the power away from biased sources reducing susceptibility to fake news or that he does not allow distractions from real issues.