Senior journalist Devulapalli Amar has been appointed as the Advisor, National Media and Inter-State affairs to the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The post comes with the rank of a Cabinet minister in the state government. Amar who is now the President of the Indian Journalists Union, has been an activist for media causes for most part of his career. He is also the Consulting Editor of Sakshi newspaper, which is owned by the Jaganmohan Reddy family and anchors `Fourth Estate’ on Sakshi TV.
Incidentally, Amar is the third journalist with a Sakshi lineage to move to the government of Andhra Pradesh. As soon as Jagan had taken over as chief minister, GVD Krishna Mohan was appointed as the Advisor (Communications) to the Government. Krishna Mohan used to present a programme `Law Point’ on Sakshi TV.
Yet another senior journalist P Srihari, who earlier worked in Sakshi newspaper, was appointed as the Chief Public Relations Officer in the chief minister’s office in June. Srihari also wrote a book on Jagan, chronicling his 3600 km long padyatra from Kadapa to Srikakulam in 2017-19.
The three appointments have been made keeping in mind their subject expertise and will facilitate Jagan’s media interface. At the same time, it also points to the line between the Sakshi media group and the Andhra Pradesh government blurring. Not that the newspaper and TV channel have ever made any bones about being the YSR Congress party’s mouthpiece.
The argument has been that over the years, much of the Telugu media has been pro-Chandrababu Naidu, hardly devoting space and the honesty to putting out the YSRCP’s point of view. And during the TDP regime, Sakshi newspaper and channel were targeted and boycotted. But the messaging that goes out with the appointments is that the Sakshi group is seen more as an extension of the government’s information and publicity machinery and not a journalistic endeavour. Much like the case in many other states where the ruling party also owns media properties.
The trust deficit that the YSRCP and Jagan in particular, have vis-a-vis much of the vernacular media showed up within minutes of being sworn in as chief minister on 30 May. Jagan named three media organisations – Eenadu (whose news channel is called ETV), Andhra Jyothy (whose news channel is called ABN) and TV5 – and said if they still write negative stories distorting facts, his government shall not hesitate to file defamation cases against them.
“Media houses like Eenadu, Andhra Jyothy and TV5 are known for their pro-Chandrababu Naidu rhetoric as they cannot see any other politician ruling this state. To bring back Naidu to power, they wrote whatever scrap they wanted to defame us,” Jagan had said in Vijayawada.
About two months later, on 24 July, Andhra Pradesh assembly Speaker T Sitaram barred the entry of representatives of the same three channels on grounds that they had provided live coverage to a media interaction of three suspended TDP members the previous day while the assembly session was on. Sitaram said it “violated established norms”.
The challenge for the trio, and Amar in particular, would be to repair the perception regarding the Jagan regime that is close to three months old now. The impression gaining ground is that the new CM is obsessed with fixing his predecessor, alleging massive corruption during the TDP rule. On the ground, people would want Jagan and his ministers to spend their energies more on fulfilling the promises made during the padyatra and the election campaign.