Media and their marching tunes.

TWO long marches are underway, albeit with opposite purposes and with unequal media attention.

Imran Khan's journey to Islamabad could, not for the first time, tilt Pakistan sharply to the religious right. Rahul Gandhi's longer march on the other hand is aimed at liberating Indian politics from its communal and divisive trajectory, to rebuild the country's inclusive, democratic sinews.

Read: Marching against a ticking clock

Pakistan's media is divided over Imran's quest and also the method, which is not entirely unexpected. It's a feature of democracies that newspapers and TV channels almost always offer competing choices, intellectually and ideologically. It is thus that Imran Khan can challenge the Pakistani state and yet grab a fair share of presence in distant cities and countryside, as do his critics.

The Indian case is the opposite. Be it his visual presence or with regard to Rahul's sound objectives, the dominant media has almost completely airbrushed the unexpectedly popular marathon walk.

This studied aloofness could not be possible without a nudge from the media's powerful minders, corporate and political. Lal Krishna Advani said of Indian journalists that Indira Gandhi asked them to bend but they preferred to crawl. Not entirely factual, some newspapers carried blank spaces rather than censored news. And journalists too went to jail. Yet Advani's assertion cannot be ignored. The old ideological breach in the media has become a yawning chasm under the right-wing dispensation.

One can only hope that Rahul Gandhi does not have to pay an Imran Khan-like price or attract the wrong headlines.

Some of the best intellectuals who shaped Indian media's probity and professionalism are currently in jail as alleged left-wing extremists. While Kashmiri journalists have borne the brunt of the pro-Hindutva state's ire, no one who dissents is spared elsewhere.

Those that have survived are under relentless pressure to compromise. The Wire, which came up as an online option for courageous and quality journalism is fighting, as are some other brave outfits, their battle for survival. The Wire's offices were raided last week and editors had to surrender their phones and laptops to the police. Remember, it was The Wire that led the campaign against intrusive surveillance of intellectuals, politicians and journalists through Israel's military grade Pegasus snooping device.

The state was waiting for an error and it pounced on the opportunity when The...

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