The full text of the press release issued by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) of the address made by Prabhash Joshi at a seminar held in New Delhi on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, on the blurring of the line between editorial and advertisements in the Indian media. Joshi, a former editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta, passed away last week, nine days after the address.
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?
sans serif records with deep regret the passing away of the veteran Hindi editor and a fearless voice against media malfeasance, Prabhash Joshi, in New Delhi on Friday morning. He was 72 years old.
Founder editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta published by the Indian Express group, Joshi was a key member of the inner circle of the paper’s fiesty proprietor, Ramnath Goenka. Equally proficient in English, Joshi served as resident editor of the Express in Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Delhi.
Joshi had lately taken on a lead role against the selling of editorial space for advertisers by rapacious Indian media houses. He wrote a searing four-part series on the topic in Jansatta, which he continued to serve as editorial advisor after his retirement.
He was also a key speaker at a seminar* on the subject held by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) in the capital last week, where he revealed the plight of the BJP leader Lalji Tandon, whose campaign in the recent elections was not covered by a single newspaper because he declined to pay for coverage. Tandon won despite the media blackout.
Fittingly, for an avid cricket fan, Prabhash Joshi’s innings came to an end as he watched India fight back in a one-day international match against Australia in Hyderbad, in which Sachin Tendulkar scored the innings of his life while crossing 17,000 runs in his career.
* Disclosures apply
Photograph: courtesy Tehelka
Read the PTI report here: Noted journalist Prabhash Joshi dies
Also read: Searching for Prabhash Joshi on Google
The Indian government’s “Operation Green Hunt” to track down Maoists—described by prime minister Manmohan Singh as the “gravest internal threat facing India”—is the flavour of the season in newspapers, magazines, and on TV stations.
In reporting from the ground; publishing long essays; interviewing key players in studios; debating the whys and the wherefores of various aspects of the promised assault; throwing light on the situation in the tribal belt, the media, it would appear, is doing its job.
Is it, or is it just “manufacturing consent for war”?
From the website Radical Notes:
“It has been assumed that the Maoist movement is not a mass movement; it’s only a bunch of ‘outsiders’ imposing themselves upon hapless tribes. The absurdity of the ‘outsider’ clause becomes obvious if one spares a moment’s thought to the way in which they function. The nature and width of their activities could not have been made possible without mass support. This is not the place to substantiate this assertion. What one needs to recognize at the primary level is that this is an open question and needs to be treated as such.
“If it is an open question with many opinions, the least the media can do is give space to these opinions, and accept the complex nature of the issue. It might be pointed out that the debate shows on news-channels do bring in people of different opinions. However, a closer look at the dynamics of these shows will demonstrate how easily the biases of the mainstream hijack the entire debate.
“The newer, uncommon opinion cannot be expressed in the 10 seconds given to the participants, unlike the hegemonic narrative that we are all so familiar with. This inability to say everything in the imposed time limit is read as the lack of substance in these new voices, and a consensus on the issue is ‘created’.”
“Arnab Goswami [of Times Now] is a good example. He seems to have found answers to all questions posed by him on his show. Furthermore, his show is an exercise in forcing his moment of epiphany upon others. ‘Mr Varavara Rao, is Kobad Gandhy an ideologue or a terrorist, ideologue or terrorist, yes or no?’ We need to move beyond these multiple choice questions – reality is more layered than the media’s projection of it. We can all do with some thinking, including our editor-in-chief. Arnabism is actually symbolic of the lack of depth, and the fear of depths that haunts the journalism of big news houses.
“Maoist violence is highlighted again and again, often with cheap melodrama (showing the lack of humanity implicit in this form of reporting) as if it exists in a vacuum. Such portrayal denudes an act of its nature as an utterance, which responds to a situation (possibly another violent act on the state’s part) and is informed by necessities of a spatio-temporal/socio-political position.
“In the same way the struggles for self-determination are defined only in terms of their separatist or fundamentalist tendencies’, (one could go out on a limb and suggest that the refusal to understand or explain Islamic violence, as something more than madness or blood-thirstiness is a sign of the same problem). Just touching the surface, there too a very small section of the surface, the mainstream media presents it to its consumers (for that is what passive reception is) as the entire reality, the sole and complete truth.
“It needs to be understood, and this cannot be stated any other way, that the media is responsible for manufacturing consent for war. It has taken the State’s call for war forward by eliminating dissenting voices within. In addition to several other things, the majoritarian nature of the media poses serious questions about any semblance of internal democracy. We have to make a choice between pushing for greater democracy within and allowing ourselves to get subsumed in the state’s narrative. If we choose the latter then we need to question the idea of journalism being ‘free and fair’ and see it as an instrument in the hands of a few who hold power and seek to keep it in their hands.”
Photograph: courtesy Outlook
Read the full article: The media question
Link via Shobha Sarada Viswanathan and Nishant R.
Vijaya Karnataka, the largest selling Kannada newspaper owned by The Times of India group and edited by Visweshwar Bhat, has undergone a redesign.
Above is the front page of the first edition of the relaunched issue; below is yesterday’s front page.
This is the second revamp of the paper after ToI acquired the Bangalore-based paper four years ago, and the double-deck masthead comes just months after the City’s oldest newspaper, Deccan Herald, went for a similar double-deck masthead.
A wider column-width in the new design allows for wider front page pointer ads on column one, always a useful weapon in the hands of ToI‘s very efficient response team.
Visit the epaper: Vijaya Karnataka epaper
“Paid News”—editorial space being sold for a fee, without revealing to news consumers that it is an advertisement—is suddenly all the rage, with the Magsaysay Award-winning journalist P. Sainath weighing in on the issue.
In just the last week, the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has conducted a seminar on the topic*; the communist party leader Prakash Karat has dropped some pearls of wisdom; The Hindu has editorially commented on the issue and warned of a follow-up editorial; and media-watchers like B.V. Rao, formerly of the Indian Express, Star News and Zee News, and Mahesh Vijapurkar, formerly of The Hindu, have thrown fresh light on the subject.
But the phenomenon of “paid-for news” is really the institutionalisation of an individual transgression.
Individual reporters and editors with feeble spines—in politics, in business, in cinema, in sport; in English, Hindi and every language; in every part of the country—have always been available for grabs. They could be relied upon to mortgage their minds and do the needful in exchange for cash, cars, government accommodation, house plots, and other sundry benefits (as this news item in The Pioneer hints at).
A whole band of editors and senior journalists were not loathe to calling up chief ministers (and other movers and shakers) for advertisements to shore up their bottomlines.
And several have done far worse.
In a way, they were only marginally different from “paid news” and are, in many ways, its precursor.
The key difference is that the bean counters in media houses have realised that, in a downturn, there is a small mountain of money to be made by monetising editorial space, and that advertisement as news can put some black on the bottomline. But can mediapersons have any objections over the institutionalisation of a retrograde practice without tackling the individual sins?
* Disclosures apply
Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Pioneer