Archive for June, 2009

Media freedom is what separates India & China

5 June 2009

No media debate on Asia is complete with0ut comparing India to China, or vice-versa. Even among middle-class media consumers, there is a barely disguised contempt for the slow pace of growth in democratic India, for all the “obstacles” in the path of progress and development, compared with the frenetic pace in The Middle Kingdom.

But is there a comparison to be made at all?

Is China really in India’s league, notwithstanding the growth rate, the forex reserves, etc? This is a CNN video of its Beijing correspondent attempting to go to Tiananmen Square on 4 June 2009, the 20th anniversary of the massacre, before being engulfed by umbrella-weilding “undercover” police.

As the legendary Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows, now based in Beijing, writes:

“This is the kind of thing that makes you hold your head and say: Rising major power in the world?”

And this, on top of a ban on Twitter and Facebook, and censorship of television stories which begin with “In China today…” or “Twenty years ago in Bei….”

Also read: James Fallows: The June 4 report

T.J.S. George in China: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

‘The media’s Obama infatuation is worrisome’

5 June 2009

The Pew Research Center’s project for excellence in journalism shows that US president Barack Obama has received more positive media coverage (42 per cent) in his first months in office, more than either Bill Clinton (27%) or George W. Bush (22%).

***

Robert J. Samuelson in Newsweek:

“The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. The press—on domestic, if not foreign, policy—has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.

“The infatuation matters because Obama’s ambitions are so grand…. Journalists seem to take his pronouncements at face value even when many are two-faced.

“The cause of this acquiescence isn’t clear. The press sometimes follows opinion polls; popular presidents get good coverage, and Obama is enormously popular…. Perhaps the preoccupation with the present economic crisis has diverted attention from the long-term implications of other policies.

“But the deeper explanation may be as straightforward as this: Most journalists like Obama; they admire his command of language; he’s a relief after Bush; they agree with his agenda (so it never occurs to them to question basic premises); and they don’t want to see the first African American president fail.”

Read the full article: The Obama infatuation

Also read: Why journalists like Barack Obama

How global media covered Obama inauguration

Free, frank, fearless? No. Grubby, greedy, gutless.

1 June 2009

A significant outcome of the 2009 general elections has been the “outing” of the corruption in the Indian news media. What was earlier, usually, seen as an individual transgression has grown and morphed into an institutional malaise with long-term implications for our democracy which the aam admi is still to recognise.

Most cases of corruption in the media have so far involved the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Enter, Karnataka.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda, son of former assembly speaker M.V. Venkatappa and a Wharton PhD who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, writes of the “perversion of the media’s role in a democracy” while campaigning for a friend (presumably a Congressman) during the recent polls.

“Instead of being a neutral, dispassionate observer of what’s going on, media houses milked the election to make big bucks. Representatives of media houses approached candidates promising them coverage in exchange for money.

“Of course, I advised my friend not to succumb because I was confident that we could get substantial coverage just by coming out with different media-oriented events and activities. And we did manage to do that. For free!

“But overall, other candidates jumped on the opportunity to get coverage. And there lies the problem. If coverage just involved reporting on the candidate’s vision, track record and activities, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. It becomes a challenge when readers cannot differentiate between unbiased reportage and paid advertorials.

“This time, the difference between the two was very difficult to discern. One had to carefully look for “Special Feature” or some other tell-tale sign, which is generally not prominent enough for readers to separate fact and opinion from mercenary fiction.

“I remember the time Ramnath Goenka used to boldly declare that the Indian Express was Free, Frank and Fearless. I don’t know about that newspaper, but many others during this election were just Grubby, Greedy, and Gutless.”

Read the entire article: Notes from the Campaign Trail-III

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