Snarl, shove, throttle: reporters at work

As two TV journalists in Kolkata come to blows over a story, it shows how feral the fight to be ‘first’ has become.


These are photographs of two reporters Somraj Banerjee (pink shirt) and Prakash Sinha (blue shirt) which have kept social media abuzz. The fight took place on May 15 outside the house of Swagatam Halder who has stood first in the West Bengal higher secondary examination. Banerjee is from ETV News (Bangla) and Sinha is from ABP-Ananda - the flagship news channel of the ABP media empire.

Though both journalists have hosted these photographs on their Facebook pages, both were reluctant to speak about the issue. After much cajoling Sinha said, “The incident was unfortunate. Somraj is junior to me and is like my brother.” Banerjee decided to stay off-the-record for most of the time. But once Sinha decided to be quoted, he said, “Journalists should introspect where competition is taking this profession.”

Both suggested that the fracas was over who would be the first to take Halder to the studio for an interview. But it is very difficult to establish the chain of events when no official complaint is filed. Moreover, friends and colleagues of both journalists have decided to take their sides and their versions differ according to who they support.

The media flocked to Halder’s residence to interview him once the results were declared. There was nothing out of the ordinary in this as school toppers in India become instant celebrities. Banerjee and Sinha too had gone to escort Halder to their respective channels. At this point, things get fuzzy.  

One side claims that Halder decided to go with Sinha and had stepped into the ABP-Ananda car. This is when Banerjee sat in front of it and protested. The photographs were clicked when Sinha manhandled Banerjee and tried to clear the way.The other side claims that Banerjee blocked the way and sat in protest after the scuffle. According to this point of view Sinha “hijacked” Halder from Banerjee and when the latter protested, the fight ensued. Sinha has also hosted a video of the brawl which now seems to hve been removed.

In a quote to another website, Banerjee has said, “… reporters from big houses think they own the world. And this is a repetitive issue, happens every year!” Certainly, the ABP group is a powerful entity. Reports like this suggest that, along with the Left Front and Congress, the ABP group too had teamed up against the Trinamool Congress government in the recent  assembly election. It will not be surprising if a business group flexes its muscles over stories when it can dare to take on the mercurial Trinamool Congress government. The question then is how is such behaviour to be regulated?

A spoof by Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM offers a humorous take on the incident. The radio station, which is owned by the Bennett & Coleman group, is the only media outlet to have reported the incident, albeit indirectly. Incidentally, the Bennett & Coleman group has been trying for more than a decade to make inroads into the media market in West Bengal through two publications – the Times of India (Kolkata edition) and Ei Samay.

An RJ (radio jockey) observes on condition of anonymity, “The reason I feel there has not been proper media coverage is because nobody really wants fingers to be pointed at themselves. The idea of ‘hey let’s not bad mouth each other, we are in the same business’ has gone to such an extent that it is casting a shadow on truth and criticism.”

It is time that reporters exhibit more courage. Else, a market monopoly by media empires will hurt them harder than it is hurting the public.


Arunoday Majumder is a doctoral candidate (sociology) at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is a former television journalist and can be contacted on: Vishakha Gupta is a freelance media practitioner and can be contacted on:


The Hoot is the only not-for-profit initiative in India which does independent media monitoring.
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