Bennett, Coleman bossman Samir Jain, it is said, doesn’t like his editors becoming the news instead of quietly packaging it in the newsroom. A test of that famous kink comes in Bangalore, where the helmsman of The Times of India group’s Kannada daily has been hogging the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On January 25, Vishweshwar Bhat, editor of the mass-circulation daily Vijaya Karnataka, was shortlisted for an honorary doctorate degree by his alma mater Karnatak University in Dharwad. ToI reported that Bhat’s name had been cleared by the governor of the State, H.R. Bharadwaj, who is also the chancellor of the University.
So far, so good.
But trouble first came from the local unit of the Berlin-based “coalition against corruption”, Transparency International. On February 5, the chairman of TI’s Karnataka chapter, the former high court judge M.F. Saldanha, shot off a letter to the University and to the governor questioning the choice of the journalist.
“…the person concerned has been primarily responsible for instigating and fuelling communal hatred by regularly publishing extremely volatile and offensive articles and editorials in his paper, all directed against the minorities, particularly the Christians and Muslims as also against Dalits,” read a section of Justice Saldanha’s letter to the University.
The following day, February 6, Vijaya Karnataka carried a brief news report stating that Bhat had decided to decline the University honour due to “personal reasons”.
Today, Deccan Chronicle, which competes with The Times of India in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Madras has front-paged a story claiming that the Governor has ordered an “inquiry” into the decision of the University to honour Bhat.
Late last year, the Bangalore police commissioner Shankar Bidari attributed a series of negative reports about the functioning of the city’s police in Vijaya Karnataka to his decision to turn down Bhat’s request for gunmen in view of a perceived “threat” to his life.
Letter: courtesy Flickr
Newspaper facsimiles: courtesy Deccan Chronicle and Vijaya Karnataka
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