Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first televised interview to a domestic news channel is continuing to make the news almost a week after it was first aired. The interview which was conducted by Times Now’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami has attracted both ire and appreciation. While some have accused Goswami of being soft on Modi, others have pointed it to be a case of sour grapes since Goswami managed to fetch the interview everyone was chasing.
Despite facing major criticism, there is no denying that the interview set the agenda for conversation on social media. As per Goswami, the interview left over 1 billion impressions on Twitter and another 10 million on Facebook.
The channel said that it was the first interview of this kind by a sitting Prime Minister. However, the said claim was disputed by Ashok Kumar Upadhyay, Deputy Editor of India Today Television. “Let me start by correcting Arnab. Modi is not the first Prime Minister who has given an interview to a private news channel. I remember IK Gujaral gave at least two interviews to Home TV and that was a private news channel,” Upadhyay stated in DailyO.
Writing for The Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai compared the two interviews given by Narendra Modi to Arnab Goswami in the past two years. She said that while the first interview conducted during the 2014 General Elections on May 8, 2014, saw Goswami pin down Modi an array of subjects including communal politics and Snoopgate, the recent interview saw the feisty anchor make “sympathetic noises” and give “gentle advice”.
“Frankly speaking, it was a “very interesting” interview, it would have been a far superior piece of journalism had the Goswami of 2014 encountered the Modi of 2016,” Bajpai wrote in conclusion.
A Facebook post by Gulf News’ Bobby Naqvi has also gone viral and added to the conversation. Naqvi had interviewed Modi for the UAE-based newspaper before the latter’s trip to the country last year. The journalist claimed that the questions for the interview had to be sent for prior approval and at the last minute he was informed by an officer at 7 Race Course that he could ask only one question.
“Another shocker that I can ask only one question (to the Prime Minister) and answers to my remaining questions would be provided in writing after the meeting,” Naqvi said. He added that “I wasn’t surprised when I read that questions for Times Now interview were sought in advance.”
Popular media watch website Newslaundry too published pieces critical of Times Now. Deepanjana Pal, Managing Editor of Newslaundry, equated Times Now with DD and stated that the interview was a “proof that press freedom is dying a slow death in plain sight.”
Tearing into Goswami, Pal wrote, “About five minutes into yesterday’s Frankly Speaking, in which Times Now’s Arnab Goswami ‘interviewed’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it seemed like Goswami would ask for a selfie with Modi any moment now, and thus complete the fanboy-meets-idol routine that was playing out on our television sets. Whether or not Goswami got Modi’s autograph and a selfie remains undisclosed.”
However, Somi Das of Catch News was supportive of The Newshour presenter. She mentioned that “very rarely do people in power agree to a freewheeling chat” and pointed out that it was an achievement on the part of Goswami to have interviewed Modi twice within a short time span of two years.
“One must understand that you do not interact with the Prime Minister the way you talk to a party spokesperson,” she said.
Goswami chose to rebut the criticism with a dose of sarcasm. “There is a group that has nothing to do but discuss me, my stories and my interview, day in and day out without any fail, without getting exhausted. I am very flattered. It shows how keenly they watch The Newshour and Frankly Speaking. I can only say that for their loyal and enthusiastic viewership, I’m very grateful,” he said.
Later, he even wrote a column in a publication in which he brushed aside claims of being friendly with Modi. The combative anchor claimed that exclusive interviews are given to those channels “who command viewership” and “not to those who nobody watches”. Considering the polarizing personalities involved in the interview, the controversies surrounding it don’t seem to be dying down anytime soon.