Kind attention: M.J. Akbar, Vinod Dua, Prashant Jha, K.R. Sreenivas, T.S. Sudhir, Gaurav Sawant et al

In October 2018, New York Review of Books (NYRB) published a piece by Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) host.

Four years earlier, i.e. before #MeToo, Ghomeshi had been fired after more than 20 women had filed complaints of harassment and physical harm.

Ghomeshi was subsequently acquitted of all charges which included hitting, biting, choking and verbal abuse during sex.

But NYRB‘s decision to give space to Ghomeshi’s piece “Reflections from a Hashtag” resulted in a barrage of criticism, and led to the exit of its Editor Ian Buruma.

NYRB has published five pages of letters in response to Ghomeshi’s piece, and they are deeply instructive against the backdrop of the newsroom shenanigans of Indian journalists.

Buruma’s exit too has also been opposed by a number of NYRB contributors.

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For listed news companies, there is always an interview to push before a major event unfolds

Subhash Chandra‘s Zee has, like Raghav Bahl‘s TV18, always been a smart valuations player, forming subsidiaries, leaking information, etc to keep the stock in the news and drive its value up.

In September 2018, Chandra gave a long, supersoft interview to The Hindu, apropos nothing, in which he railed against Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Jio, even going so far as to suggest that the telecom regulatory chief R.S. Sharma had got an extension thanks to Ambani.

The penny drops today with news that Chandra wants to divest and Reliance may be one of the potential bidders.

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How ‘The Indian Express’ is covering the #Rafale scandal—and a scandal it is—compared to the way it covered #Bofors

The Congress president Rahul Gandhi has addressed five press conferences on the Rs 140,000 crore Rafale aircraft deal involving the Narendra Modi government and the bankrupt businessman Anil Ambani.

These press conferences have been on 30 August, 22 September, 11 October, 25 October and 2 November 2018, and they have all been held in New Delhi

It is interesting to see the play Gandhi has got from the Indian Express, which played a stellar, adversarial role in reporting the Bofors gun deal which eventually led to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989.

Barring one press conference, which was a follow-up to an Indian Express story on Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment investing in a movie involving then French president Francois Hollande‘s partner when Modi was inking the Rafale deal, none of Rahul Gandhi’s press conferences have got front-page display in the Express.

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All the other four press conferences, have been buried deep inside the newspaper, despite the gravity of the charges against Modi’s decision-making process—and the size of the Anil Ambani offset deal, which is way bigger than the Rs 64 crore Bofors scam (which has since been declared to be no scam).

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Admittedly, front-paging press conferences and giving a one-way platform to politicians is now passe. And, Rahul Gandhi’s press conferences have usually followed a media expose in some other media outfit, or a CBI implosion.

Still, the ability to smell a scam and keep the heat on is a vital function of public spirited media.

How would Ramnath Goenka, the fiesta founder of the Express have dealt with the Rafale scandal?

 

Ravi Nair: the journalist who pushed the #Rafale deal into the national and political consciousness

Twitter in India today is mostly a platform to preen for loud Delhi gasbags—or a signalling system for has-beens trying desperately to stay on the right side of Tongue Parivar.

Good journalism, therefore, gets subsumed by those who shout, scream and shriek—and then shout, scream and shriek some more when somebody, usually another gasbag, retweets them.

The biggest stories of the Narendra Modi era—Demonetisation and the Rafale deal—have produced ground breaking stuff from two self-effacing men, both Malayalees, and both not journalists.

First, James Wilson, a civil engineer, who sitting in Kerala, explicated #DeMo with far greater clarity than any Bombay-Delhi-Calcutta business journalist.

And now, Ravi Nair, to whom goes the singular credit of giving the #RafaleDeal the necessary throttle and boost before Rahul Gandhi and the rest of the mainstream media jumped in.

Nair, 44, says he started digging into Rafale after he heard somebody uncritically exclaim “Bahut khoob kiya” upon reading news about the deal.

He has so far produced over 40 stories and analyses for various outlets, including a cover story for Frontline, including perhaps a book soon. Nair says his first story was turned down by many till ‘Janta ka Reporter‘ accepted it.

Several other journalists have since reported on the Rafale deal but few have consistently stayed on it like Nair who, tellingly, has not called it a “scam” yet.

J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer played a pivotal role in reporting the various strands of the 2G Scam which brought down the Manmohan Singhgovernment.

Is his statemate Nair poised for an encore?

Photograph: couresy The Leaflet

Megaphone for Megalomaniac: How a high-school essay without one original thought made it to every edit page today

The demise of the editorial page as the voice and conscience of a newspaper is much lamented by the thinking class. But we in the journalism business have ourselves to blame for devaluing it by publishing tripe.

On the eve of the unveiling of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel‘s statue, the prime minister’s office sent out a high-school essay written by some faceless bureaucrat in the PMO, but appended with Narendra Modi‘s signature.

India’s allegedly free and fair press is falling over each other in giving it pride of place.

It is on the edit page of The Times of India:

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On the edit page of the Hindustan Times:

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On the op-ed page of the Indian Express:

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On the edit page of the Economic Times:

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On the op-ed page of The Tribune:

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On the op-ed page of Praja Vani:

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Only The Hindu among the major English newspapers does not carry this press release, as is, (it has a news report) but that’s only because India’s most prolific op-ed writer, vice-president M.Venkaiah Naidu is doing the honours.

As he does on the edit page of Eenadu:

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On the edit page of Vijaya Karnataka:

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It is nobody’s case that Sardar Patel doesn’t deserve play on his birth anniversary. It is certainly nobody’s case that Narendra Modi should not get credit for his statue. But surely the role of newspapers goes beyond acting as a megaphone for megalomania?

 

Why ‘Rajasthan Patrika’ decided to boycott all news of Vasundhara Raje

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Barring honourable exceptions like The Telegraph, Calcutta, mainstream English media has happily abdicated its principal duty in a democracy: to stand up and speak truth to power; to reveal the worts; to expose the hypocrises; to oppose the brutalities.

To paraphrase L.K. Advani‘s oft-quoted comment from the Emergency era: “When asked to bend, the media crawled under the carpet.”

The language media, usually looking up to their anglicised “superiors” for direction and inspiration, is, of course, in far worse shape.

Vast swathes of “Bharat” are now serviced by newspapers and TV channels which are cheers leaders of the marauding Hindutva army, which uses a deadly concoction of delegitimisation, whataboutery, trolling, threats, intimidation and mob power to silence those who do not play along.

Rajasthan Patrika is a rare exception.

Whether out of editorial choice or commercial compulsions, the Jaipur-based group, which has been at the receiving end of arbitary ad freezes by the Narendra Modi and Vasundhara Raje governments, has put its money where its mouth is by announcing a “boycott” of news of the chief minister.

On November 16, the so-called “National Press Day”, the paper printed a blank editorial (see image, above) to oppose the BJP government’s move to gag the media. Below is editor Gulab Kothari‘s and the paper’s stand on the ‘black ordinance’.

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It is ‘lock’ until the black law remains

By GULAB KOTHARI

The Rajasthan government has surpassed even the Emergency with its black law. There were expressions of extreme disapproval across the whole country, but the government did not withdraw the law. This is some audacity prompted by the brute majority in the government!

Though it is referred to the Select (Pravar Samiti) committee, practically the law is still applicable. If desired, a journalist can test it. If he publishes the name of a corrupt officer, he will be put in prison for two years.

When that is the case, isn’t this decision of the government hoodwinking the public?

The session of the Assembly began on October 23. In the Business Advisory Committee (BAC), held after the passage of condolence messages, it was decided that both Bills, the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 and Cr.P.C (Rajasthan Amendment), 2017 would be tabled in the Assembly for consideration on October 26.

The next day, on October 24, at the beginning of the session, the procedure should have been Question Hour, followed by Zero Hour, and then the legislative procedures.

Prior to that, the report of BAC was to be tabled in the House but during the Question Hour itself Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria started making a statement.

The rule prescribes that there should be first the introduction of the Bill, then it should be tabled for consideration and then there should be a debate on it. Only then it should be handed over to a committee. But during the Question Hour itself, amidst the furore, a proposal was passed by voice vote and the Bill was handed over to the Select Committee.

Here, according to the rules, any member of the House can make a deemed resolution to abrogate the bill, which was placed by BJP legislator Ghanshyam Tiwari and had also been approved by the Chair. This was also overlooked. On October 24, instead of October 26, it was given to the Select Committee.

All traditions were demolished.

See how they made a mockery of the law!

Both the ordinances were tabled together in the Assembly. The rule is that if the state revises the same central law, two ordinances cannot be taken up together. One can come up for consideration only when the other is passed; such is the procedure approved by the former Assembly Speakers.

When the first bill becomes law, the discussion on the other takes place. Here the two Bills were put together on the table. Then again, in his over enthusiasm, Hon’ble Kataria ji first announced the second bill, Cr.P.C (Rajasthan Amendment), 2017, which went to the Select Committee. Now how the second Bill would be referred to the committee

Thereafter the House had to be adjourned for two hours. Again, the already announced Bill was handed over to the committee on October 25, instead of October 26– without a discussion, without a debate.

Look at it! The law itself was black and it was moved in the House by ignoring the rules and procedures. It was made to appear to the public that the law had been placed forever in the cold storage. That was not the case. It was just put on the sedatives. After waking up, it would start kicking. And the freedom of expression in a democracy would be murdered.

What path the law would take is in the womb of time.

Today, we are left with many questions. When a state government makes laws to protect its corrupt sons by keeping the judgment of the Supreme Court in the pocket, then should the debate first be on the law or on the contempt? As the dates fall, the ordinance will throttle free speech and expression.

How to get out of this?

Rajasthan Patrika is the newspaper of Rajasthan. The government did not spare any effort to paint our face dark.

Should the public accept this black law unwillingly? Should we allow the Hitler regime to prevail over democracy? The elections are away. There is a whole year ahead. It is a long time span. A lot of damage can be done in the meantime.

Rajasthan Patrika is such a seed whose fruits are dedicated to the people. Therefore, accepting the advice of our Editorial Board, the Board of Directors has decided that till the Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, does not take back this black law, Rajasthan Patrika will not publish any news of hers or those related to her.

This is a matter of democracy, of free expression and of the pride of people’s mandate. Hope the blessings of the public will be with us as it has been the case always. Victory to India! Victory to democracy!!

Journalism #101: Lessons for Indian broadcasters from a Briton in America

Concomitant with the rise of the Right, India’s brain-dead TV news channels have offered the platform to the most communal, incendiary, racist viewpoints in the last four years, on a host of issues designed to pot of polarisation boiling.

In the absence of editorial discretion, or possibly because of it, all manner of wackos, from representatives of “cultural organisations” to tilak-toting babas and beard-stroking mullahs, have managed to say stuff beyond the pale of civility.

All this is passed off in name of “balancing the debate”, as if there can be “another side” to the cold-blooded killing of human beings in the name of a mutant, militant version of a great religion. Or the disenfranchisement of a vast mass of voiceless people.

Result 1: Normalisation of the abnormal, as the former TV presenter Sashi Kumar said in an excellent speech earlier this year.

Result 2: Communalisation of the discourse: the writer Paul Zacharia declared recently that the “most of the communal agendas were mostly set by the media”.

Result 3: Poison in the pool from which we all drink. Venom in the water supply. And a astonishing spurt of meanness and vengeance.

Much of what is happening to politics and the media in India is mirrored in the United States, but with a key difference: news organisations have stood up to the threats, intimidations, and tax terrorism and told the freaks where to eff off.

In this excellent Channel 4 video, the Guardian writer Gary Younge stands up to the ace idiot, Richard Spencer and shows that good journalism demands that we don’t just provide a platform for the bizarre, but question, question, question.