Amongst the many visitors Sasikala Natarajan has had these past days are the top brass of Tamil Nadu-based media houses. Editors and owners of several media organisations including The Hindu, Thanthi TV, The New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle called on Sasikala over the past three days.
While many passed off the visits as courtesy calls some journalists, who have been at the razor's edge of the state government's arm-twisting by defamation tactic, criticised the exercise.
"Sasikala is shrewd and her meeting with the editors and chiefs is an attempt at enhancing her image," said Ramasubramanian, a senior journalist.
"As far as the chiefs who met her are concerned, it is puzzling why they would meet an extra constitutional figure like Sasikala instead of the chief minister (O Panneerselvam). Anyone outside Tamil Nadu will find it difficult to understand these dynamics. Why would they meet someone who is a subject of utter contempt of the people," said Ramasubramanian.
Jayalalithaa's second term as chief minister saw a trend of defamation cases being filed against media houses. The media in Tamil Nadu protested against the tactic at the time forcing the government to back down. However, there have been no agitations against the defamation tactic since 2012.
While many chose to fight legal battles, others withdrew from criticising the government. It was a win-win for the Jayalalithaa government since none of the cases ever went to trial.
Some journalists believe that this is the time for change.
"When most media outlets are biased towards a political party in Tamil Nadu, neutral media was always seen as a threat and was crushed. Now is a transition period. The dynamics of Tamil Nadu politics is changing and so should the media. Defamation is an occupational hazard for journalists and if media houses are unable to face it, then they should probably shut shop. Media should not be scared of defamation," said Shabbir Ahmed, a journalist who has been named an accused in a defamation case when Jayalalithaa was the chief minister.