Monthly Archives: September 2009

Could the media end up killing Barack Obama?

Al Jazeera’s media show The Listening Post on how 24×7 media is dangerously inflaming passions against US President Barack Obama with lies, untruths, rhetoric—a little like the way a newspaper advertisement greeted John F. Kennedy the day he arrived in Dallas in 1963.

Also read: How global media covered Barack Obama inauguration

The media’s obsession with Obama is worrisome

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A lofty title takes the high road at premium price

The Times of India has officially announced the name of its new, “premium”, weekend paper launching on Saturday, September 26. It is called “The Crest Edition” and will have 40 pages.

An announcement on the front page of the paper today says that like its “lofty title”, the Crest Edition will take the high road on everything from politics and business to literature, sport, culture and science.

“Crest’s got the heft but suits the hammock too.”

Half-page ads of the new paper appear on page 2 of the paper in Bombay and Delhi. (Click on the frame to get a larger, more reader-friendly view.)

Also read: Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest

Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest.

toicrest

After weeks and months of “will they, won’t they”, The Times of India has bucked the advertising downturn and announced the launch of its “premium” weekend paper just ahead of the festival season.

This announcement appears on the front page of the paper in Bombay and Delhi, suggesting that it is initially going to be published from these two metros alone.

The announcement gives no indication of the cover price (said to be higher than the main paper) and no announcement of the title (rumoured to be Crest).

Also read: The name is Gajwani. Satyan Suresh Gajwani.

If a report isn’t ‘wrong’, surely it must be ‘right’?

unny

The threat of war between India and China has still not receded but the battle between unnamed home ministry sources continues relentlessly.

Caught in the crossfire: journalists.

First, The Hindu reported, quoting unnamed home ministry sources, that the government was contemplating filing a first information report against two journalists of The Times of India for a “wrong” report on two Indian soldiers being injured in firing by the Chinese in Sikkim.

Then, The Indian Express gleefully repeated the claim, again quoting unnamed home ministry sources.

Now, Press Trust of India reports, quoting unnamed home ministry sources, that “top officials” of the government has decided to “let it go”.

Questions: Has the Indian government seen the writing on the wall and climbed down? Or, was there no such attempt to file a complaint in the first place? If the FIR against the “wrong” report is not being filed, are we to conclude that the report was “right”?

Which means, were Indian soldiers injured in Chinese firing?

Which means, is the situation on “the longest disputed border in the world” far from normal?

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: Censorship in the name of the ‘national interest’?

Because your TV cannot devote a full 23 minutes

Are you being served, Mr Foreign Correspondent?

The ruling Congress-led UPA government in India is on a major austerity drive. Ministers have moved out of temporary accommodation in five-star hotels. Party leaders are moving around in economy-class planes and trains to send the right signals. And a Twitter comment about the “cattle-class” and “holy cows” has sent the country all atwitter.

In the midst of all this, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has embarked on his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations with a band of diplomacy correspondents in tow.

Naveen Kapoor of the news agency Asian News International (ANI), who is accompanying the PM to New York, has this telling line in his report on day one:

“Following the [austerity] order to a tee, the [airline] staff did not serve expensive biscuits and eliminated caviar, but in a concession to the media accompanying the delegation, served all those on board the choicest of liquor en route to Frankfurt, where there will be an overnight halt.”

Link via Mahesh Vijapurkar

Also read: The Top-10 austerity moves India really wants to hear

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

‘India’s best lensmen don’t come from media’

The celebrated lensman Prashant Panjiar has captured “the visual landscape of India at the cusp of change” for his solo exhibition Pan India, to be held in New Delhi from September 25 to October 5 under the auspeices of Tasveer, the art and photo gallery.

In an interview with the Sunday Express, Panjiar, a former photographer with India Today, Time and Outlook magazines, talks about the state of the craft.

How would you define the present state of photojournalism in India?

In the 1980s, if you counted the top photographers in India, most were photojournalists. Now it will be hard to find many of them on the list. Media has changed a lot. In the new set-up, photography has suffered.

Photograph: courtesy anzenberger

Also read: Prashant Panjiar on photography

Censorship in the name of ‘national interest’?

sachin

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The coverage in the Indian media of conditions along the India-China border from where reports of “military incursions, shooting incidents and even imminent conflict along the Line of Actual Control” are being reported on an almost-daily basis has invoked a strange reaction from the government.

On the one hand, there has been a denial from the very top of the government and armed forces, with the national security advisor even uttering the words “media hype”, even as the two heads of the external affairs ministry (S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor) are battling the after-effects of five-star comfort and Twittermania.

And, on the other hand, the Union home ministry has reportedly decided to file a First Iinformation Report against two reporters of The Times of India. The reporters, Nirmalya Banerjee in Calcutta and Prabin Kalita in Guwahati, filed a front-page story last Tuesday, September 15, of two soldiers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) being injured in firing by the Chinese in northern Sikkim.

The reported quoted “a highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media” and also mentioned that ITBP officials in New Delhi “declined to confirm the incident”.

The disclaimer notwithstanding, ToI carried this clarification on the following day on its inside pages:

“Responding to a ToI report, ‘2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing’, the ITBP had clarified that no such incident of firing has taken place on the India-China border and no member of the ITBP had been injured.”

Clearly, the clarification failed to cool the embers in the corridors of power.

On Sunday, September 20, The Hindu carried a news story, bylined “New Delhi Bureau”.

“We have taken this story very seriously. We are going ahead with our decision to take criminal action against the two reporters and we will soon file an FIR. They have quoted some highly placed intelligence source in their story. Let them appear before the court and tell who is this source who gave them information,” unnamed “top home ministry sources” were quoted as saying in The Hindu.

The reporters’ crime according to the unnamed top home ministry sources?

Indian law proscribed promotion of enmity with other countries.”

The rest of the Indian media has ignored the travails of the The Times of India‘s reporters, and as has become the norm these days, the Indian Express, which reports the story on its front page today, doesn’t even bother to name the paper.

The attempt to tone down the war mongering in the media is understandable. After all, the sight of two gigantic countries , both nuclear powers, staring eyeball to eyeball in a confrontation is not a very pretty one.

Still, some questions need to be asked:

1) Is the government over-reacting to one story in one newspaper? Have other newspapers and other TV channels been calmness personified?

2) By targetting ToI, is the government trying to send signals to other bellicose media which have been itching for action? Is this pre-war media management?

3) Is this story on injured Indian jawans the only “wrong” story on this issue, or any other issue, that merits government reaction? If so, why?

4) Is the government implicitly accusing the media of making up stories? Or is it trying to find out the media’s sources? If it is the latter, isn’t the government chasing the wrong end of the animal?

5) Is The Times of India‘s responsibility to the reader or to the home and defence ministries?

6) Is The Times of India‘s reporters within their rights to not reveal their intelligence source/s, if any, even in a court of law?

7) Does threat of an FIR and criminal action amount to censorship in the name of “national interest”?

8) Who in the government decides whether a story is acceptable or not to the “national interest”, and on what basis, and how often?

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Because your TV cannot devote 23 minutes