“I want this government to be criticized. Criticism makes democracy strong. Democracy cannot succeed without constructive criticism.” So said Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, well after he was swept to power in 2014 on a wave of optimism. The electoral success of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was predicated on two fundamental tenets: removing corruption and strengthening and modernizing India’s democracy.
As circumstances have changed, so has the Modi government’s media strategy. As Modi faces a weakened economy at home and increased communal tension across the country, the prime minister and his party moved to hijack the country’s historically free press. The government has not created an official state run news service, but instead relies on independent news organizations to peddle its economic narrative, chastise a Muslim minority, and prey on Hindu anxieties in the country.