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‘Neutralise those writing against us’: Inside the govt’s plan to manage media perception

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad feels that “despite being in government”, there is a “gap” in online news platforms like the Wire, Scroll, and some other regional media. The government’s “core media intervention”, Prasad thinks, isn’t getting enlarged. To tackle this “gap”, a group of ministers held meeting with stakeholders like journalists, and industry professionals, noting the need for a strategy to “neutralise” the people who are writing against the government. After these consultations, the group of ministers prepared a report titled ‘Report of the Group of Ministers on Government Communication’, which was accessed by MediaNama, and first reported by the Caravan. The agenda was clear: to devise strategies to manage the government’s image in the media, and in the process, identify a pool of influencers and journalists who sympathise with the government’s ideas, and would be willing to toe its line. The idea was to create something similar to the “Pokhran effect” — where the Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments enjoyed a surge in popularity following nuclear tests. The group of ministers included five union cabinet ministers, and four Ministers of State: Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law, and IT), Smriti Irani (Textiles, and Women & Child Development), Prakash Javadekar (Information and Broadcasting, and Environment), S. Jaishankar (External Affairs), and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs), were the five union ministers. Kiren Rijiju (Youth Affairs and Sports), Hardeep Singh Puri (Civil Aviation, and Urban Affairs), Anurag Thakur (Finance, and Corporate Affairs), and Babul Supriyo (Environment, and Forests & Climate Change),…

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