Toxic Debate Killed Rajiv Tyagi: Journalists, Activists, Demand TV News Reforms

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“These debates are no longer structured discussions. They only serve to generate TRPs for TV channels”

Mohd Aasif | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Rajiv Tyagi, national spokesperson of the Congress, died of cardiac arrest recently. He suffered an attack soon after an abrasive and venomous debate on a Hindi news channel. His sudden death has triggered a heated debate over the conduct of the television panelists and news anchors.

Along with leaders of the Congress, senior journalists and activists took to social media for airing their opinions and comments.

On the official Twitter account of the Indian National Congress (INC), Congress leader Manish Tewari, urging the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to “decisively intervene” and “cancel the licence” of such television channels which organise wrestling-like debates, he said, “Rajiv Tyagi’s death should become the trigger for TV channels to revisit this debate format. These debates are no longer structured discussions. They only serve to generate TRPs for TV channels which translate into revenue streams.”

Senior Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai recalled his conversation with Tyagi and said his death meant the professional demise of journalism. He tweeted, “About a decade ago, Rajiv Tyagi came to me and said, ‘bhaiya, kabhi hamein bhee TV debate pe laya karo!’ (Bro, invite people like us also to tv debate!).. When he did eventually come, it was to join the cockfight format of noise shows with no substance: today, his passing away is a reminder of our own professional demise! RIP”.

Talking about the kind-hearted nature of Tyagi, Zeeshan Siddique, MLA and General Secretary of the Mumbai Youth Congress, tweeted, “Didn’t get the chance to meet Rajiv Tyagi ji but during the initial stages of lockdown, he would send me details of people stuck in Mumbai who needed groceries. Being in Delhi, he would continuously follow up till the families got the ration. A very kind man, a huge loss, indeed.”

Senior journalist Sagarika Ghose, recalling her past experience, tweeted, “When I hosted TV shows on CNN-IBN always made it a point to drive towards constructive debate by offering different views in a spirit of tolerance. Horrified at today’s TV: foul-mouthed, illiterate, venomous. Citizens who want to stay sane should SWITCH OFF news TV. #Rajiv_Tyagi.”

Pointing out the necessity to bring about the change in the code and conduct of debates on the news channels, Rajya Sabha MP, Ahmed Patel tweeted, “It is high time TV channel owners, editors and anchors introspect on how some in the industry have reduced news debates into a meaningless, poisonous and potentially fatal activity. At times words can have the same impact as bullets.”

Supreme Court advocate-activist Prashant Bhushan in his tweet called the demise of the Congress spokesperson a ‘murder’, saying Tyagi was murdered by the channels, anchors and spokesmen like Sambit Patra who thrive on hate and abuse.

National Coordinator, Digital Communications & Social Media at INC, Gaurav Pandhi shared the clip of the video debate in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson kept him calling ‘Jai Chand’ (a simile for the traitor of the Indian freedom movement). He tweeted the video appealing Congress workers and volunteers to look at the discourse.

“Every Congress worker, volunteer, supporter should watch this video. Shri Rajiv Tyagi was in this debate & immediately after he passed away. Look at the discourse. Just see the vile language being used by scou***el @sambitswaraj for Rajiv Tyagi ji. NEVER FORGET THIS. NEVER!”

Agitated with the loss, members of the Youth Congress in several states have filed FIRs against BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanding his arrest.

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