Posts Tagged ‘The Hindustan Times’

Has Indian media aided ban on Gandhi book?

31 March 2011

VINUTHA MALLYA writes from Ahmedabad: The ban masters are back in business. And as usual, vibrant Gujarat leads the way, but this time the Centre is not too far behind.

Narendra Damodardas Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and renowned terminator of artistic freedom, has just announced the State’s “ban” on the book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India by Pulitzer-winner and former New York Times journalist, Joseph Lelyveld.

The book’s sin: to have elicited reviews that hinted at the Mahatma’s bisexuality, despite the author’s denial of it.

Modi won the dash to the ban on Wednesday after Union law minister (and alleged author), M. Veerappa Moily, had announced in Poona earlier in the day that the Centre too was considering proscribing the book.

As the man in charge Gandhi’s homestate, “hands-on” Modi obviously couldn’t let somebody else be seen to be protecting its asmita before him. (For the record, the Congress government in Shiv Sena land, Maharashtra, too has announced a ban.)

None of the crusaders of Gandhi’s reputation have thought it worthy to read the book before publicly denouncing its content and conclusions:

“We have to think how to prevent such writings. They denigrate not only a national leader but also the nation,” said Moily.

Anyone remember Article 19? Anyone remember that Moily is both a lawyer and an author.

Modi, an old hand at ban baaja, has used this strategy in the past to his advantage: Jaswant Singh’s book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and his support in the unofficial banning of the films, Parzania and Fanaa, to name just two. While in the three instances, the issue was of inconvenient truths, in this case, he is angered that:

“The apostle of truth, peace and non-violence has been represented in a perverted manner”.

Look who’s talking about the apostle of truth, peace and non-violence, when Gandhi’s own great grandsons—Gopalakrishna Gandhi and Rajmohan Gandhi—and great grandson Tushar Gandhi have no problem!

Appropriating Gandhi is as fashionable as “denigrating” him, it seems.

***

More than the politicians pavlovian response to a book they haven’t seen, read or understood, it is the Indian media’s faithful participation in the process leading upto the ban that is the most disturbing. It is action replay of the ban on Salman Rushdie‘s Satanic Verses in 1989 based on a review of the book in India Today.

The question the Indian media need to ask themselves today is: Are reviews in Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph or The Wall Street Journal the last word on books or on Gandhi? Should we not read and make up our own mind as a mature democracy? At the very least, should we not expect the proscribers to know what they are talking about?

Gujarat’s (and Maharashtra’s) ban on the Gandhi book comes despite Lelyveld ‘s clarification that he had not said anything about Gandhi’s bi-sexuality, and that had he not claimed in his book that Gandhi was a racist.

So, what gives?

In Pratibha Nandakumar’s story of reactions from Bangaloreans in the Bangalore Mirror titled ‘Fashionable to slander Gandhi’, she states without provocation: “If this was a strategic publicity campaign, his agent gets full credit. Everybody wants to get a copy.”

At this rate, we just might not.

Lelyveld is no lightweight, fly-by-night author trying to rack up some sales by creating some buzz. He is a two-time executive editor of the New York Times whose previous tome was on apartheid in South Africa.

Yet, he finds his book banned despite his clarification to the Times of India in a story it ran on 29 March 2011.

In the ToI report, Ahmedabad-based Gandhian scholar Tridip Suhrud was reported not only to have interacted with Lelyveld when he was researching the book but also as having read it:

“He (Suhrud)  is aghast with the reviews and swears by Lelyveld…. Suhrud goes on to give full marks to Lelyveld and the book. He says it is the first political biography of Gandhi by an expert on apartheid,” says the ToI report.

This did not stop the world’s most-selling English daily’s city supplement, Ahmedabad Times, from posting two pages of “reactions” from “celebrities” on 30 March. Not one of them had read the book, and of the 19 celebrities interviewed only three were aware that the author had denied having made any of the claims that were doing the rounds in the UK and US media.

The others reacted variously to what they had read in the media, that it was wrong (of the author) to talk of Gandhi in this way. A sketchy paragraph that did not clarify the issue introduced this photo feature. The paper did not make it clear to the reader that the author had denied having called Gandhi a bisexual or racist.

Nor did it differentiate between the book and the reviews, making them both sound synonymous.

One wonders if the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) had access to the book when it quoted passages in the story it ran on 28 March, or if it simply borrowed the passages from what was floating around online.

On 30 March, in a comment appearing on Hindustan Times online, the writer reproduces a quote by Suhrud that appears in the book (“They were like a couple”) by dropping a key word (“They were a couple”), completely misrepresenting Suhrud in the process. Such is the rush of the press.

In an interview to The Indian Express on 29 March, Lelyveld told journalist Mandakini Gahlot:

“The reason Western media reports are highlighting the ‘bisexual and racist’ aspect is ‘because of the atmosphere we live in where anything is plucked off and reported everywhere as news. The news aggregators are full of it this morning. There is no real reporting, people have not even read the book.”

The God is in the details though.

Whether or not the author questioned Gandhi’s sexuality, Indians have always been uncomfortable with Gandhi’s own honesty.

At a seminar on Gandhi, which was organised by the women’s studies department of NMKRV College in Bangalore in the late 1990s, two young students were at the receiving end of Gandhians’ ire. Their offence was to publicly discuss, from a feminist perspective, his nocturnal experiments with the teenaged nieces.

When they wondered aloud, just as any young woman would (should?), if he had considered the impact of his experiment on the young 17-year-old’s mind, many members in the audience stormed out of the auditorium.

No debate, no discussion.

The latest ban is proof that nothing has changed, only the players have.

Photograph: Mahatma Gandhi (left) with the jewish bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach (right), with whom he is alleged to have shared a relationship even while being happily married.

‘Hindu and HT were worst offenders in 1975′

29 June 2010

With  nearly 60% of India reputedly being under 25 years of age—in other words, with three out of five Indians having been born after 1985—it stands to reason that the 35th anniversary of the declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi government should have come and gone without creating a ripple.

That, and the fact that the news channels and newspapers were too busy celebrating panchamda R.D. Burman‘s birthday and the World Cup to be bothered of the more serious things affecting life and democracy.

Nevertheless, the press censorship during the Emergency is one of the darkest periods in contemporary Indian media history, when promoters, proprietors, editors and journalists quietly acquiesced to the firman of the government to not publish anything that was considered antithetical to the national interest.

Censors sat over editors in newspaper offices and crossed out material (including cartoons and pictures) that didn’t conform to the official policy; criticism of the government was a strict no-no; over 250 journalists were arrested; 51 foreign correspondents were dis-accreditated, 29 were denied entry, seven were expelled.

In The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts life under censorship, names the pussies and lions, and says the media today is “too niminy-piminy, too nice, too refined” if such a disaster were to strike again.

***

By KULDIP NAYAR

L.K. Advani was right when he told journalists, “You were asked to bend, but you crawled.” Even then, the courageous part was that nearly 100 journalists assembled at Delhi’s press club on 28 June 1975 and passed a resolution to condemn press censorship. But subsequently, fear took over and they caved in.

They were afraid to speak even in private.

The press council of India (PCI), the highest body to protect press freedom, became a part of the establishment. The then chairman, Justice Iyengar, stalled a resolution to criticise press censorship by local members of the PCI. Justice Iyengar informed the information minister V.C. Shukla about his achievement in not letting the resolution of condemnation passed.

Except for the Indian Express, the leading light during the Emergency, practically all papers preferred to side with the government.

The two of the worst were The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.

The Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas, was always with the Congress. K.K. Birla, then its chairman, took over as chairman of the Indian Express and changed its editor by replacing incumbent S. Mulgaonkar with V.K. Narasimhan, who proved to be a tough nut to crack. Birla was the complete opposite of Ramnath Goenka, the owner of the Indian Express. Goenka fought the government tooth and nail and staked all that he had built in his life….

The Times of India was edited by Sham Lal, who had impeccable credentials. Girilal Jain, the resident editor in Delhi, too stood by the principle of free press. Both were pro-Indira Gandhi but against press censorhip. However they felt handicapped because the management wanted to play it safe. Not that Shantilal Jain, who owned the paper, was in any way pro-Emergency, but he had burnt his fingers when the paper was taken over by the government at the instance of T.T. Krishnamachari, then the finance minister, who doubted the paper on certain matters.

Leading regional papers were against the Emergency but did not want to face government wrath. Eenadu, under Ramoji Rao, refused to toe the government line but stayed within the contours of the Emergency to avoid trouble.

Ananda Bazaar Patrika owner Ashoke Sarkar was a man of courage and gave his blessings to his principal correspondent Barun Sengupta’s fight against the emergency. The paper, however, managed to escape the wrath of the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the author of the Emergency.

My friend K.M. Mathew, the owner of the vast empire of Malayala Manorama, stood his ground and despite the pressures on him showed where his sympathies lay when he invited to open a photo exhibition at Kottayam after my release from jail. The country was still in the middle of the Emergency. Yet, Mathew showed his annoyance in his own way.”

Text: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

A health report male journos will agree with?

30 May 2010

Lies, lies and damn fags: Indian women journalists light up more often than ordinary Indian women.

That’s the finding of a month-long study (authored by a male doctor) spanning 1,500 mediapersons in 15 print, television and advertising companies on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day.

While the national average of Indian women smoking is 1.5 per cent—meaning, out of every 100 women, between one and two women like to take a drag—the average among women journalists is between 5 per cent and 35 per cent, if your poison is The Hindustan Times.

Or has shot up from 5 per cent to 35 per cent if you believe The Indian Express. The comparable figures for men are not known.

The study was conducted by Ravikant Singh of the non-governmental organisation “Doctors for You“.

While women smoking has often been interpreted as an affirmation of their identity as a free and equal person and attributed to peer pressure, Singh reports that women journalists smoke excessively to “curb their hunger pangs”.

Verily, “You’ve come a long way, babies“.

Photograph: Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru helps a British envoy’s wife light up in a picture shot by India’s first woman photojournalist Homai Vyarawala

Wash it down: How well do you know your alphabet?

When a politician weds a journalist, it’s news

17 February 2010

Not too many Indian politicians have a good word about journalism or journalists, but at least one of them, Congressman Jitin Prasada will (hopefully) do so from today. The 36-year-old junior minister for petroleum and natural gas married television journalist Neha Seth in New Delhi on February 16.

Prasada, 36, belongs to the Kapurthala royal family and even boasts of a link to Rabindranath Tagore. Apparently his great-grandmother is the Nobel laureate’s niece. The Hindustan Times quoted him last year as saying he wanted a non-politician wife: “I need a getaway.”

Seth, 30, a former staffer at CNN-IBN, quit the channel last year reportedly to be part of BJP leader Vasundhara Raje Scindia’s campaign team in the run-up to the assembly and general elections in Rajasthan.

The Times of India reports her parents are page 3 regulars on the Lucknow circuit.

“The wedding proposal came from the boy’s side,” ToI quotes the bride’s mother Poonam as saying. “I was very annoyed with Neha for rejecting every wedding proposal that came for her. I would tell here you’ll be left on the shelf if you carry on this way…. They are well-suited for each other. He’s a fine boy.”

The reception from the girl’s family is scheduled to be held in Lucknow on February 20.

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

Everybody loves a good car, not a good filter

10 December 2009

The announcement of the launch of Tata Nano, the small car produced by the Tatas, saw the media falling over itself heralding the arrival of the “People’s Car”.

The fact that the car was priced at Rs 100,000 was enough to result in long front-page stories; glowing feature articles on Indian engineering and enterprise; breathless test drives; and fawning editorials and interviews with the man behind the car, Ratan Tata.

So, how does the same media treat the launch of Tata Swach, the water filter/ purifier that is priced at Rs 749 and Rs 999, and in a country like India is likely to reach more people and change more lives, and launched by the same man.

In alphabetical order:

AFP (news agency): 540 words

Associated Press:  772 words

BBC: 245 words

Business Standard: 381 words

DNA: 308 words

Press Trust of India: 477 words

Economic Times: 400 words

Indian Express: 415 words

Hindu Businessline: 461 words

Hindustan Times: 162 words on the filter, 333 words of an interview

The Times of India: 202 words

Copenhagen, anybody?

Carbon intensity?

Photograph: courtesy Paul Noronha/ The Hindu Businessline

Also read: And Ratan Tata sang, PR kiya tho darna kya?

If we can get a car for Rs 1 lakh, why can’t we…?

There’s nothing lost if the Nano isn’t produced

‘What Henry Ford did then, Ratan Tata has now’

Can India survive the Nano?

Tata, turtles and corporate social responsibility

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Tatas scrap the Nano?

… may please treat this as a personal invitation

24 October 2009

Poster

The names of the key engineers who demolished the great wall in Indian journalism—the proprietors, the publishers, the brand managers, the spineless editors and journalists who refused to stand up to the advertiesrs and space sellers—are missing from the gabfest of the Foundation for Media Professionals.

Were they not invited?

Or did they decline to come?

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

The difference between 386 and 23 is 363 words

12 September 2009

How does the mainstream English media in India report the alleged transgressions of one of its own?

S.N.M. Abdi, the Calcutta-based journalist who broke the “Bhagalpur Blindings” story in 1979-80 (in which police blinded 31 undertrials by pouring acid into their eyes) for M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday magazine, and now works for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, was arrested on Thursday on rape charges.

The incident got the most coverage in the Calcutta edition of The Times of India, and barely merited a paragraph in the eastern city’s older English dailies, The Telegraph and The Statesman.

Abdi, incidentally, was Calcutta bureau chief of  the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, the features magazine owned by The Times group, and was at the centre of the infamous J.B. Patnaik case in 1986 under the editorship of Pritish Nandy. “Shocking: The strange escapades of J.B. Patnaik,” the Weekly‘s cover story dealt with the deviant sexual life of the then Orissa chief minister. After a protracted legal battle, the Weekly apologised.

The Telegraph, Calcutta: 23 words; headline: “Rape arrest”

Deccan Herald, Bangalore: 49 words; “Journo held on rape charge”

The Hindu, Madras: 61 words; “Journalist held”

The Statesman, Calcutta: 67 words; “Journalist held”

The Hindustan Times, Delhi: 97 words; “Journalist arrested on rape charges”

DNA, Bombay: 231 words; “Senior journalist held for rape”

Indian Express, New Delhi: 346 words; “Senior scribe held for rape”

The Times of India, Calcutta: 386 words; headline: “Housewife lured with railway job, raped”

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Pranay Gupte on S.N.M. Abdi: ‘Marvelous young journalist’

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

22 February 2009

Eleven media professionals—editors, publishers, promoters, proprietors—figure in the Indian Express list of the 100 most powerful Indians in 2009.

Eight of them have a presence in newspapers, three in television, only one is from the magazine sphere. Four of the 11 are from the language press.

The IE ranking also lists the quirks and kinks of the bold faced names, including those of the media pros.

# 50: Vineet Jain and Samir Jain, owners, The Times of India group: “Vineet likes going to discos, Samir often visits a spiritual retreat close to Haridwar.”

# 58: N. Ram, editor-in-chief, The Hindu: “He has an air-conditioned aviary at home. He is crazy about tennis and cricket.”

# 61: Prannoy Roy, co-founder, New Delhi Television (NDTV): “Accompanies his 85-year-old father to India’s cricket matches, this week in New Zealand.”

# 70: Raghav Bahl, managing director, Network 18: “The figure 18 in the company’s title is a lucky charm.”

#71: Prabhu Chawla, editor, India Today: “A sharp dresser, he has a tie fetish and possesses a wide range of designer ties.”

# 73: Shobhana Bhartia, vice-chairman, The Hindustan Times group: “Her friends swear by her. She is known to be the most loyal of friends.”

# 76: Mahendra Mohan Gupta, CMD, and Sanjay Gupta, CEO and editor, Dainik Jagran: “M.M. Gupta hangs out at a chaiwala‘s when in Kanpur. Sanjay likes the colour blue.”

# 77: Aveek Sarkar, editor-in-chief, Anand Bazaar Patrika group: “He is always impeccably turned out in a white starched dhoti at social dos.”

# 88: Ramesh Chandra Agarwal, chairman, Dainik Bhaskar group: “He loves eating chaat in Bhopal’s Chowk area. He is good at number crunching.”

Also read: Forbes can name India’s second richest woman

Is this man the next media mogul of India?

Why the great Indian media dream crashed

18 February 2009

Rs 60 crore for hoardings to promote the launch of a television channel; Rs 1 crore per day for programming.

Hindustan Times editorial director Vir Sanghvi on why the great Indian media dream came crashing down:

“Many publishing houses ventured into businesses and products they had no understanding of, believing that the revenue from their existing cash cows would increase so dramatically that they could subsidize losses in the new businesses.

“That dream is now dead. That’s why some publications are closing down and others are certain to follow.

“In the TV space, the situation is even worse. Two years ago, venture capitalists believed that the boom would last forever. Not only would ad budgets keep rising but the stock market would sustain absurdly high valuations for media companies.

“Much of the expansion of the last two years has been based on these mistaken calculations. TV companies have spent so much money that it is hard to see how it can ever be recouped.”

Read the full blog: Why media suffers, while movies, IPL prosper?

Should the government bail out the media?

10 February 2009

Just a few months ago, Indian media organisations were prancing around in joy, launching new channels, new editions, new supplements, new “events”, as if there was no tomorrow.

Where there was madness without a method, there is now panic without a method.

Now, suddenly, media managers are acting as if there are ants in their pants. Hundreds of media workers have been laid off, all plans are on hold. Cost-cutting is in as are salary cuts, freeze on recruitment, curtailment of travel, hotel stay, etc. The sizes of most newspapers has seen a decline, as advertisements see a sharp fall.

In the midst of all this, a delegation of three newspaper publishers and editors—Shobhana Bharatia of Hindustan Times, Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express, T.N. Ninan of Business Standard—has met the officiating information and broadcasting minister Anand Sharma to plead for a “bail out”.

Absent from the delegation were television moguls, who are in worse shape, and magazine publishers, and radio broadcasters…

Questions: Should the government bail out corporate media? Should the corporate media which has often ranted against subsidies for farmers, etc, be asking for artificial sustenance? Will a party/alliance about to face an election lend its hand without attaching strings? Can a media that depends on government help for support really be independent? Or does it not matter?

Also read: Why the media mustn’t bail out the print media

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