Posts Tagged ‘Nikhil Chakravartty’

‘Corporatocracy is cause of Indian media’s ills’

5 November 2013

Below is the abridged text of a message sent by Justice P.B. Sawant, former chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), to a seminar on the state of the media held by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi on November 2, to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Nikhil Chakravartty, former editor of Mainstream:

***

By P.B. SAWANT

“The deterioration in the standard of journalism that is often complained of, is on account of many contributory causes. The low mental, moral and intellectual calibre particularly at the top, being not the least important among them.

“But here, it is necessary to draw distinction between different media outlets.

“The corporate-owned and dominated media-houses have their journalists on the leash, and many times appoint them only to fill the post. On account of the hefty pay packages and alluring perks, many do not mind being the call-boys of the management.

“It is common knowledge that the views injurious to the interests of the owners, their friends, political patrons, the advertiser and co-businessmen are not allowed to be published, and the editors have to submit to the management policy from time to time.

“Gone are the days when the independent editors strode the path with majesty. They had value of their own and commanded respect and readership on account of their intrinsic qualities. The newspapers were identified by their names and the readers moved with them to different newspapers.

“That breed of journalists cannot be expected in the philistine world of today. Those who cannot adjust to the present ambience, fight their lonely battles, and except a few, fail to survive.

“Even the average readers of the day, have no time and taste for serious journalism. The values have changed and are changing fast. The role of the journalist is reduced to the commentator on the events. The comments have also to be within the framework laid down.

“Unfortunately for the last some years, the foreign element has also become prominent in quite a few editorials, main articles, reportage, and anchoring and interviews. When the government and non-government so called experts also crawl before the foreign interests, this is not surprising. And yet, some plead for the wholesale entry of the foreign media.

“There is enough documentation on the role the foreign agencies have been playing through many dubious devices including the media, to spread economic imperialism, and to weaken the countries and their governments. There is a fleet of journalists in every country on the pay-roll of the foreign intelligence agencies.

“Our journalists have to be on guard lest they fall an easy prey to the alluring alien snares. On the other hand, they should, in the national interests, expose these insidious rackets.

“Some apologists argue that today the journalists do not have lofty causes to pursue as the freedom struggle, the initial phases of nation building, sharp ideological skirmishes, wars with Pakistan, emergency, cold-war and regional hot wars, etc, which not only sharpened the pen of the former generation journalists, but shaped their characters.

“It is therefore not proper to compare the present generation journalists with their predecessors. It may at once be agreed that it is not fair to weigh the present generation with the earlier generation in any field, for obvious reasons. But it is incorrect to argue that we are not faced with as important problems as did the past generations.

“Every generation has it its own problems and some of them are graver than any faced by the earlier generations. We are today confronted with aggressive casteism and communalism, rampant corruption in every field, growing criminalisation of public life, galloping economic imperialism all over the world euphemistically called neo-liberalism and globalisation, all round environmental destruction and pollution, piling of atomic, chemical and biological weapons, blatant unilateral invasion of countries for plundering their oil, minerals and other natural resources and capturing their markets, anti-national policies and projects, treaties and agreements, enormous economic inequalities, terrorism born of deep social and economic injustice as well as of fanaticism etc. But there is no crusade against any of these national evils and disasters.

“On the other hand, the voice of the media is muted on some of these issues, lest the vested interests and patrons are hurt. The comments on these developments, when made are superficial. No attempt is made to delve into the basic causes, with the result that the real culprits remain free to indulge in their nefarious activities.

“Journalism, one thought was for educating the people, and not for satisfying their curiosity by any feedback.

“The lack of independence of the journalists is the main weakness of journalism today. That is on account of corporatocracy is undisputed. It can only be cured by the ownership of the media by the journalists themselves either through co-operative or company structure. The venture will succeed, if the journalist concentrates on journalism, and hand-over the administrative and business part to the professional managers. The Le Monde of France may serve as an example.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: The editor who decline the Padma Bhushan

Also read: Editors Guild backs Times Now in libel case

HT springs to TOI’s support in Times Now libel case

The Editor who declined the Padma Bhushan

3 November 2013

20131103-124049 PM.jpg

Today, 3 November 2013, is the birth centenary of Nikhil Chakravartty, the “barefoot reporter” who founded the journal Mainstream.

NC or Nikhilda, as most who knew him called him, plunged into active journalism as a special correspondent with the Communist Party organ People’s War (1944-46) and People’s Age (1946-48), and later Crossroads (1952-55) and New Age (1955-57).

He then set up a feature news service, India Press Agency (IPA) in collaboration with another Communist journalist David Cohen.

In 1959, IPA shot into prominence with a report of the then prime minister’s personal assistant M.O. Mathai, that rocked Parliament, forcing Mathai to resign.

Nikhil Chakravartty quit the Communist Party for its support of Indira Gandhi‘s emergency and played a key role in opposing press censorship (1975-77) and Rajiv Gandhi‘s anti-defamation bill in 1989.

Tellingly, he declined the Padma Bhushan conferred on him by the National Front government In 1990, with a dignified letter to the then President, “pointing out that a journalist carrying out his professional obligation should not appear to be close to any government and/or any political establishment.”

A commemorative issue of Mainstream, released at a seminar organised by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi yesterday, records:

“He always called himself a ‘reporter’. He did have the finest attributes of a reporter, and despite airing his own views in commentaries and editorials never discarded fairness in reporting or tampered with facts.

“His fidelity to facts was extraordinary. And he knew what to report and what not to report—always preserving the confidence reposed in him by his interlocutors.”

Nikhil Chakravartty passed away on 27 June 1998, by which time he had stepped down as editor of Mainstream to become its editorial advisor.

Mainstream is now edited by his son Sumit Chakravartty.

Also read: Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline Padma Sri

Lessons for Vir Sanghvi & Barkha from Prem & Nikhilda

Did Radia tapes impact Padma awards for journos?

External reading: Usha Rai on Nikhil Chakravartty

Lessons for Vir & Barkha from Prem & Nikhilda

28 November 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Journalism started going astray with the birth of financial dailies in the 1960s. With full-fledged newspapers devoted exclusively to business, corporate houses became hyperactive. The next thing we knew was press conferences ending with gifts of expensive sarees and suitlengths to reporters.

That was innocent child play compared to what has hit the headlines now: charges of celebrity journalists working hand in hand with a professional lobbyist to fix things like cabinet appointments and big-ticket business deals.

Excerpts from taped conversations between the star journalists and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia have been published. Radia was promoting the prospects of some DMK personalities as well as the gas interests of one Ambani brother and the spectrum interests of the Tatas.

The journalists became her tools.

Lobbying is a recognised activity in democracies. But it is a tricky line of work because sometimes unconventional methods might become necessary to secure the case of a client. Given Niira Radia’s experience and efficiency, acknowledged by companies like Tatas, we must assume that she took care not to cross the line. Anyway we can leave it to the enforcement directorate which is looking into the matter.

Journalism is as different from lobbying as nariel paani is from singlemalt. Any crossing of the line may be a tribute to the power of singlemalt, but never justifiable.

Unfortunately the journalists show themselves as amenable to doing the unjustifiable. They agree to convey messages favouring A.Raja to the Congress bosses. They agree to take the side of the Ambani brother Radia was promoting as against the other brother.

The moment the tapes were published, the journalists mentioned in it rushed to rebut all insinuations. The arguments were that journalists had to talk to all sorts of people, that “stringing” along with a source was no crime, that promises had to be made sometimes to get information from a source. The employer of one journalist said that it was preposterous to “caricature the professional sourcing of information to ‘lobbying’”.

The question is whether the journalists carry credibility. Of course drunks and murderers have been among the valued contacts of journalists. And of course journalists have moved very closely with political leaders.

Few people were closer to Jawaharlal Nehru than B. Shiva Rao of The Hindu. Prem Bhatia of The Statesman used to walk the corridors of Delhi as if he owned them. The hardest nuts in the power circle cracked happily before Nikhil Chakravartty on his morning rounds.

Not once did these men ask for a favour or recommend a businessman friend. They were not social celebrities, but they did their profession proud by keeping the highest possible credibility level.

Today’s celebrities assume they can win credibility by simply saying that they talked to Radia only as a source and that they never kept promises made to her anyway. Is a veteran networker like Radia so easily fooled? Obviously she is close to her journalist contacts and must have had promises from them before. She wouldn’t waste her time if she knew that they were promises not meant to be followed up.

At one point she actually tells another contact that “I made [the journalist] call up Congress and get a statement”. This is Radia speaking, not a naïve greenhorn. To say that this kind of work on behalf of a lobbyist is legitimate journalism is like B.S. Yediyurappa saying that all he has ever done is development work.

To say that they promised to talk to the likes of Sonia and Rahul only to outsmart a war-horse is like the BJP high command saying it has outsmarted Yeddyurappa.

The glamour of celebrityhood has a way of going to one’s head. Delusions of grandeur are never a journalistic virtue. The real virtue is the mind’s ability to maintain a degree of detachment. When the game is played at the 5-star level, one can never be sure of who is fooling whom.

It will be good for everyone to remember that there is one lot that can never be fooled: The people.

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

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