Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: You might have been taken aback upon reading the headline. There is so much chatter around about being neutral, that we’ve actually forgotten how to be one. Over the years, my friends and my readers have accused me of being partial, anti-BJP and pro-Congress. Amidst all these criticism, I continue penning my thoughts out in the open. When I had written extensively about the extra-judicial killings by the Gujarat Police, I was accused of being anti-police. But even when I’ve written over a hundred articles about the good works of the policemen, my readers were shocked, on how the cops can be good. And secondly, how could I write a positive story about policemen. My writings invited such views every time.

It is a general thought that journalists are supposed to be neutral. But expecting that the police and the judiciary too remain neutral, similar to journalists, is just a bit too much to expect. In the thirty years of my life in journalism, I’ve met two types of scribes. One, who cling by every single word said by the government or his subject and present it unfiltered to the readers. The other who not only note down what his subject says but then verifies if whatever has been told to him holds any truth or not and whatever the findings are is presented to the readers. It is upon me to decide what kind of journalist I wanted to become. The first type is safe, and there is no risk to his job, respect or salary. They are the stenographer types.

The stenographers never use their own heads while working under government officials. They simply give a word structure to the oral dictation by the officials to them. The second type of journalists not only presents the news but the views along with it. Thus there is a possibility of the subject of the story getting annoyed with the write-up. And if the subject is a person wielding power, the story could cost you your job. It has happened to be at least a dozen times. I have always liked the second type of journalism. A journalist never writes to appease or frustrate someone. But if someone gets happy or disappointed with his story, it is nothing but a by-product of the work. It is must for every journalist to watch and judge every incident that he/she is covering.

The accusations on me are that I am anti-Modi, anti-BJP and pro-Congress. Sometimes when I think of the accusations partiality on me, I wonder if the ones accusing have ever read my reports during the Congress regime. I used to think back then, that if Congress is to lose the power and BJP comes to rule, I’d write similar scathing reports against them too. If someone asks me to prove it, I’d tell them to ask Narendra Modi about it if they ever get to have a conversation with him. When Congress was in power, I’d obviously write against them, asking them questions whose answer the citizens were seeking, and exposing the chinks in their armour. As BJP was not in power, I could not write about them back then.

BBC Gujarati had recently held a seminar on combating fake news. In the star-studded even with eminent speakers as guests, one such speaker was a senior journalist and columnist Ramesh Oza. He said he doesn’t agree with the fact that a journalist should be impartial. ‘A journalist must take sides, and when it comes to that point, he/she must choose to side with the deprived, exploited and the ones standing last,’ said Oza. It means that a journalist must always be anti-establishment. I completely agree with my senior Ramesh Oza. A journalist can never be impartial, and a neutral person can never be a journalist as he never takes sides and simply does the job of a stenographer. There is a possibility of a journalist digging depths to understand and decipher the subject of his story, but he should always pick a side and must present it in his writing.

Many opinions from my past have now changed. A journalist is always asked about a topic, “What do you think about it?” Which means, the reader has read the story and has educated himself about the incident, and now he wants to know the journalist’s opinion on the same. Journalists in their personal group confide in their opinions orally, but when it comes to putting it out in the words in the open, he hides his opinion. A similar situation is faced by the police and the judges too. A police and the judge must only side with those who are devoid of justice. A policeman cannot say that because he is impartial, a goon and a commoner are the same to him. The cop must side with the common citizen and teach the goon a lesson. Similarly, the judge too must side only with what is just, without going by who is the accused or who is the victim. If a judge becomes neutral, justice cannot be served. I think I am not impartial, and I don’t wish to be one.

Click here to read this in Gujarati.

Prashant Dayal tweets at @prashantdayal26. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more.