Posts Tagged ‘Tibet’

Express declares ceasefire; brothers declare war

29 March 2010

The tussle between The Indian Express and The Hindu following the former’s reports (Part I and Part II) on the boardroom happenings in the latter has predictably and understandably gone cold after N. Ram‘s belligerent announcement of “criminal and civil defamation proceedings”.

Express bossman Shekhar Gupta is said to have instructed staff to go easy but the Hindu‘s editor-in-chief delivers a sucker punch by way of a tweet, on the Express‘s widely speculated motive/s for doing the stories.

However, the tussle within The Hindu boardroom—chiefly among three brothers—shows little signs of abating and two business papers, Mint owned by the Hindustan Times group and Business Standard, feast on it in today’s editions, even hinting that it could result in a corporate legal wrangle.

After telephone conversations with the two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram—managing director N. Murali who has been stripped of his powers and kicked upstairs as the senior managing director, and N. Ravi, who is smarting at not getting to be editor-in-chief had Ram retired in May 2010 as per a previously agreed plan—Mint lays out the three key issues facing the family-owned paper.

1) Retirement norms for family member-directors

2) Entry norms into the business for younger members of the family

3) Overall corporate governance issues

Ravi is quoted as saying that discussions on corporate governance norms had been going on for a couple of years now and that he, along with Murali, had prepared a document on it to be circulated among board members in the February 2010 meeting.

By far, though, the Business Standard story throws more light.

Murali is quoted as saying that he…

“…has been ‘singularly targeted, utterly humiliated and sought to be disempowered by being divested of all substantial powers and responsibilities’.”

BS also quotes Murali on record as saying that the proposal for retirement of directors on reaching the age of 65 was moved by him at a September 2009 meeting, as per which Ram as to have remited office this May, Murali next year, and Ravi in 2011.

However, Ram is quoted as saying there was no written record on retirement age.

In an accompanying story, the paper quotes an unnamed member of the board of Kasturi & Sons as saying that moving the company law board (CLB) over issues about running the group was an option.

It reveals that there was a concerted move within the board to confine Murali’s powers to circulation, till the opposition of other members resulted in his getting to share two other responsibilities (accounts and industrial relations) with newly appointed MD, K. Balaji, son of Ram’s mentor and former editor, G. Kasturi.

However, BS quotes Ram as saying that key decisions at the March 20 board meeting, which resulted in the news breaking into the open, were either taken by a majority of 9-3 or unanimously. (The third dissent vote is likely to have come from former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy who stands to lose the most.)

Ram also tells BS that Murali had been redesignated as senior managing director “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

However, the real juice is in the issue of the appointments of Generation Next: Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman as the new correspondent of The Hindu in Washington DC, and Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram as the European correspondent based in London for The Hindu Business Line.

According to this version of the BS story, available on rediff.com:

“Under central government rules, a decision to include a family member in the organisation with a remuneration of more than Rs 50,000 a month requires the clearance of the central government. There are charges that Lakshman and Vidya were sent to their locations before the clearances came.

“Lakshman was sanctioned $10,000 and Vidya 5,000 pounds as advances from the company. However the central government sent some queries to the company asking for details on the procedures followed or whether a selection committee was set up to appoint them.

“In order to reply to these questions a board resolution was initiated by Ram which was opposed by some members on the ground that he was an interested party.

“Ram has a different version. ‘The two appointments of relatives of directors have been done meticulously in accordance with the requirements of law: Approval by the board, approval by the shareholders, and central government approval. There was no violation of any kind.’

“He says it is elementary that advances for travel expenses on editorial or business assignments are completely different from remuneration or salaries, which are contingent on employment. ‘I declared an interest in my daughter’s appointment and did not participate in any matter in which I should not have.’

Meanwhile, the fracas within The Hindu has become easy meat for those wanting to get their fork (and knife) into the paper.

The security analyst, B. Raman, former additional secretary, in his widely emailed “thoughts for the day”, poses these questions:

(a) Has the time not come for greater transparency in The Hindu group?

(b) Has the time not come for the Government to introduce, in consultation with the media houses, a right to information act relating to media houses?

(c) Is it not in public interest  for the rest of the media to have a debate through their columns on the issues raised by the controversy between The Hindu and The Indian Express?

(d) Are the media houses and journalists holy cows beyond criticism or spotlight?

Raman makes one good point though.

The inadequate information over ownership and editorial control, which the current controversy highlights, he writes, results in…

“the reading public patronising the “Hindu” not being aware of the fact that a small group of members of the same family decide what should be reported to the public and what views and opinions should be disseminated through the columns of the paper. The reading public has difficulty in knowing who is a relative and who is an independent member of the staff capable of providing an objective point of view uninfluenced by the interests of the family.”

A pro-LTTE website also sees in the tussle the premature comeuppance of an editor who dragged The Hindu into adopting an anti-Tamil Eelam line.

Writes TamilNet.com:

“Ram’s Hindu played a major role in translating the desertion of “Colonel” Karuna from the LTTE into a politico-military machination beneficial to Colombo and New Delhi.

“Even after the war ended in Vanni, Ram’s continued support to genocidal Colombo and opposition to Tamil independence signify larger agenda, commented academic circles in Chennai. Some academics have now stopped writing in The Hindu.

“Ram was also accused of playing China’s agent in India by Tibetan organizations.”

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu. N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

One paper’s 40% threat is another’s 60% dud

4 December 2009

The relationship between India and China has in recent months become, as the cliche goes, the cynosure of all eyes. Border roads and dams; military incursions; a row over the Dalai Lama; illegal Chinese workers on Indian soil, Google™ maps, all have become milestones in the steady escalation of tensions.

The media has been at the centre of the dispute, and there is a feeling that “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “anti-China media”) have been inclined to ratchet up the volume, ostensibly at the nod of their American, capitalist masters.

But could the opposite also be equally true? That “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “pro-China media”) have been inclined to play down the tensions, ostensibly at the nod of their Chinese, communist masters?

Some proof comes from the manner in which the Lowy Institute for International Policy‘s survey of Chinese attitudes about their country and its place in the world is being reported.

# Exhibit A, above, is from the December 2 edition of The Indian Express, New Delhi, whose Delhi-based correspondent avers that 40 per cent of Chinese think India is their country’s biggest threat “after the United States”.

# Exhibit B, below, is from the December 4 edition of The Hindu, Madras, whose Beijing correspondent reports that environmental issues are perceived to be the biggest challenges facing their country. “60 per cent of Chinese did not view India as a threat…, only 34% viewed India as a threat an the rest were non-committal.”

For the record, prime minister Manmohan Singh said during his recent State visit to the United States that he could not understand the reasons for China’s recent “assertiveness”.

Newspaper facsimiles: courtesy The Indian Express and The Hindu

Also read: Is India right in barring foreign media?

Censorship in the name of “national interest”?

Journo who broke Dalai Lama story passes away

24 November 2009

From The Hindu:

Guwahati: Veteran journalist Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa, who broke the news about the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet through Tawang in March 1959 and his seeking asylum in India, passed away at his Chandmari residence here on Monday. He was 87. He is survived by his wife Aparajita, a son and three daughters.

Rajkhowa was also the first Indian journalist to have interviewed the Tibetan religious leader.

The Dalai Lama’s request letter for asylum had reached Rajkhowa by mistake in Shillong, where he was based as the correspondent of the The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Guwahati.

The messenger, who carried the Dalai Lama’s request letter written in English, reached Rajkhowa instead of a government official to whom the letter was addressed and who was residing near the journalist’s residence.

Rajkhowa used to recall how he first copied the whole letter before sealing it once again for handing it over to the messenger for delivery to the official and thus broke the story about the Dalai Lama’s flight in The Assam Tribune.

Born in Phukan Nagar in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district, Rajkhowa started his career as a sub-editor with The Assam Tribune in 1946. Later he joined the Shillong office of the English daily in 1951. In 1973, he shifted his base to New Delhi and worked in different national newspapers.

Rajkhowa was also a member of the Press Council of India.

Photograph: courtesy The Assam Tribune

Read The AssamTribune obituary here

Read The Assam Times obituary here

Is India right in barring foreign journalists?

7 November 2009

The Great Wall between India and China is not made of bricks and mortar; it is made of freedom and liberty. Any debate, any discussion, anywhere, on the superpowers-to-be is sealed, signed and delivered by the roaring presence of those essential ingredients in plentiful on our soil, and the utter lack of it in our great neighbour.

China notoriously detests dissent—and democracy.

It bars foreign media from freely moving inside its boundaries; Tibet is off-limits to them as is Tiananmen Square. BBC was famously taken off Rupert Murdoch‘s Star Network at the behest of the comrades. Google and Yahoo effortlessly dance to the tunes of the Chinese dictators. Chinese citizens routinely can’t log into YouTube, Facebook and other media. And so on.

But has difference between “us” and “them” been erased by the Congress-led UPA government?

In barring foreign journalists from going to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to report the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama‘s week-long visit to the northeastern State which China off and on claims as its own, has the Manmohan Singh government thumbed its  nose at India’s great democratic traditions?

Has India missed a trick in showing its inviolable sovereignty before a global audience? In behaving much like China would, has the Congress-led regime obliterated the difference between democracy and dictatorship? Or was the government right given the war-mongering that has recently been on display?

Also read: Media freedom is what separates India and China

Censorship in the name of ‘the national interest’?

The top-15 media stories (& viral videos) of ’08

6 January 2009

The strange thing about the so-called Global Village is that it has turned us all provincial. We relate to, are interested in, connect with, and remember news events with an insularity that would befuddle Marshall McLuhan. And in the process, we forget that stuff happens outside of the bubble we inhabit.

The Listening Post, the world-class media show on Al Jazeera English hosted by Richard Gizbert, has compiled the stories and personalities that dominated the global media in 2008, in association with Influence Communications, the Canadian media analysts who look at more than a billion TV items from 160 countries.

And the winner? The US presidential election which occupied a grand total of 6.5 million minutes of airtime around the world. On election November 8, and the day after, an average of 21 television news items per second were aired worldwide. The full list is as under:

1) US presidential elections

2) War in Iraq

3) Global economic meltdown

4) The Beijing Olympics

5) War in Afghanistan

6) Oil prices and climate change

7) Nicholas Sarkozy and Carlo Bruni

8) Tibet during the Olympic torch relay

9) Conflict over South Ossetia betwen Russia and Georgia

10) Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf

11) 60th anniversary of Israel’s creation

12) European football championships

13) Iran’s nuclear programme

14) Zimbabwe’s political and economic troubles

15) Earthquake in western China

When a newspaper is no longer a newspaper

19 March 2008

THEJAS H.K. writes from Madras: There was a time not too long ago when I used to walk a couple of miles to get a copy of The Hindu in Mysore. Here, in the City of its birth, it is delivered to my room at 6 am, but over the last few years, a strange feeling of unease, even disgust, makes me run away from a newspaper I used to pursue.

Today, when the paper lands at my doorstep, I wonder if it is the same publication that professors used to goad us to read for its English; if it is the same publication that parliamentarians used to cut and quote; if it is the same publication that our parents used to say was the last word in correctness and credibility.

The unease, the disgust, has been building up for a while now.

Contributing factor number one has been the ridiculous reverence of all things communist: The one-sided coverage of the killings in Nandigram, which even the readers’ editor K. Narayanan noticed; the exaggerated coverage of the affairs of the CPI(M) and AIDWA despite the magnitude of their influence in society; the flip-flop on the nuclear deal.

Contributing facgtor number two has been reverence of all things DMK: M. Karunanidhi is called “a statesman of our time”; the distribution of free colour TV sets is hailed as a giant leap forward in terms of establishing social equality; the violence of M.K. Azhagiri, the splurge of money on the huge banners and cut-outs of M.K. Stalin go unquestioned.

And when the Cauvery tribunal hands out its award, the daily forgets that it is not just a Madras newspaper but a South Indian paper also published from Bangalore, and rejoices, hailing the decision of the tribunal to ask Karnataka to release double the amount of water it can keep for itself. Its sister publication, Frontline, runs it as a cover story.

Some of those actions can be traced to ideological kinks (“avoiding the traps of anti-left campaign journalism that various other newspapers and television channels”, as editor-in-chief N. Ram put it in response to the criticism of the Nandigram coverage), and to keep its core constituency—Tamils—happy.

But it is the national paper’s coverage of matters concerning China—be it its claim over Arunachal Pradesh or the uprising of Tibetans in Lhasa last week—that is deeply troubling, and has well and truly turned me off.

Exhibit A: When the Chinese foreign minister asserted during a visit to India that Arunachal Pradesh belonged to India, the paper ignored the report, but carried a mysterious editorial suggesting that the border row can be solved by adopting a “give and take policy”. India should give and China should take?

Exhibit B: The uprising of Tibetans in Lhasa has seen The Hindu go overboard, censoring, blacking out, polishing and giving a spin to everything, as if it is China’s National Newspaper, not India’s. And this after a recent piece on the Dalai Lama resulted in a Tibetan protest in front of the head office of the paper.

Just one example will suffice. On the day, the Dalai Lama was talking of “cultural genocide“, on the day The Times of India was saying that “Tibet unrest spreads beyond Lhasa“, The Hindu was saying, “Lhasa returns to normality“.

Result: “The Mahavishnu of Mount Road” is collecting labels by the lorryload. B. Raman calls the paper the “People’s Daily of China“. Nitin Pai calls the paper “Beijing’s Mouthpiece“.

Which is all so surprising.

When N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy were removed as editor and executive editor of the paper in an overnight bloodless coup in 2003, and replaced with N. Ram, joint managing director N. Murali (elder brother of Ram and Ravi) was quoted as saying this: “It is true that our readers have been complaining that some of our reports are partial and lack objectivity.”

The Hindu is open to precisely the same charges of partiality and lack of objectivity now. In fact, if anything, things have only gotten far worse. And this when Deccan Chronicle is around and this when The Times of India is slated for launch soon. Yet there is not a whisper at what this motivated and slanted coverage is doing to the core strengths of a great newspaper, built over 125 years by the sweat and toil of scores of journalists and non-journalists.

A newspaper is entitled to its views, of course, but when it starts twisting and distorting the news to suit the ideological inclinations of those at the helm, and his ideological blood-brothers, we have a problem on hand.

As it is, some newspapers now sell their editorial space to the highest bidder, there are wheels within wheels in advertising, and so on. If a newspaper, revered and trusted by hundreds of thousands of South Indians, joins the ranks, we have Big Trouble in Little China indeed.

Either we could be seeing a great institution being dismantled, brick by red brick, or we could be seeing the end of a free, fair, unbiased, vibrant media. Or both.

Cross-posted on churumuri

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