Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ex-Outlook journo is new Hindu readers’ editor

The Hinduhas a new readers’ editor: A.S. Panneerselvan. A former Madras correspondent for Outlook* magazine, Paneerselvan, 49, was with Sun TV as managing editor before moving on to be executive director of Panos South Asaia. He was also with Indiaweek, the now-defunct weekly newspaper launched by Business India.

* Disclosures apply

Image: courtesy The Hindu

External reading: Paneerselvan review of B.G. Verghese book

Everybody loves a good FDI announcement

The announcement by the Congress-led UPA government to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail has resulted in two Delhi newspapers—the Hindustan Times (left) and Mail Today—claiming credit on their pages for breaking the story first. The former on August 19 and the latter on September 11, 2012.

Image: courtesy Hindustan Times, Mail Today

Aaj Tak bites into a nice piece of Barfi

Historically, product-placement has usually meant a newspaper or magazine strategically placed in a movie shot to give the title some airtime. Or a TV star or studio artfully used as a prop.

In both cases, it is big media (movies) pushing smaller media (print or electronic).

With the new Ranbir Kapoor flick Barfi, product-placement comes full circle, with the film’s hero pushing the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak owned by the India Today group.

ToI, Narendra Modi & balls for Vivekananda yatra

Nothing is safe these days at the hands of the supersensitive—not even a simple headline.

The Times of India ran an innocuous page one anchor on Thursday of footballs for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s “Vivekananda yuva vikas yatra” being made in Jalandhar.

On Friday, the newspaper had to run this by way of an apology.

Image: courtesy The Times of India

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Also read: The newspaper cartoon that offended Christians

Poonam Pandey, Sachin Tendulkar & The Telegraph

Newspaper cartoon that’s offending Israelis

sans serif” joins ToI in this sincere apology

Newspaper cartoon that’s offending Aussies

ToI apology that meets Katju‘s standards

The Times of India ‘apology’ on fixing report

Discreet inquiries by ToI after publication showed…

‘Darkest hour for media since the Emergency?’

Is it a good thing that the Supreme Court of India has not announced guidelines for media coverage of court cases? Or has it opened the floodgates by introducing a “neturalising device” that underlines the right of the accused to seek postponement of coverage on a case-by-case basis?

And, by introducing a “constitutional principle” has the judiciary appropriated to itself the power of the legislature to make law?

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The Tribune, Chandigarh: Thoughtless curbs

The Supreme Court judgment that courts can defer media coverage of a case for a short period if there is a danger to an individual’s right to fair trial will curb freedom of the Press, limit the people’s right to know and unnecessarily encourage litigation. Growing complaints of “trial by media” had prompted Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia to initiate a discussion on framing guidelines for court reporting….

There is a growing tendency in the judiciary as well as the executive to curb free speech. The Allahabad High Court banned all media reporting of troop movements after a news report hinted at a coup attempt. The government recently gagged social media sites on the pretext of restoring order. The arrest of a West Bengal professor for circulating a cartoon, the removal of cartoons from school textbooks and the slapping of a sedition case against a cartoonist for disrespecting the national emblem are other instances of executive intolerance of dissent. Vague judgments like the one in the Sahara case will only fuel this tendency.

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Deccan Herald, Bangalore: Gag on media

A fresh threat to the right to free speech and expression, which has been sanctified by the Constitution, has come from an unlikely place, the Supreme Court of India, which has in the past protected and promoted it as a basic entitlement of citizens. Its judgement empowering courts to ban reporting of hearings in cases where there is a perceived chance of interference in free and fair trial amounts to muzzling media freedom. It needs to be opposed like all other assaults on the functioning on the media, which are becoming frequent now.

The court has propounded a  ‘constitutional principle’  which would allow aggrieved parties to seek postponement of the publication of hearings if they are seen to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. But this is disguising an unfair restriction as a constitutional doctrine, creating a devious device to undermine a basic right.

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The Indian Express: Lines of control

This “doctrine of postponement” of reporting is meant to be a preventive measure, rather than a punitive one, and is intended to balance the right of free speech with the right to a fair trial. The courts, the SC said, will evaluate each appeal carefully, guided by considerations of necessity and proportionality. However, the very outlining of the principle, in effect, leaves journalism at the mercy of the high court, rather than being internally regulated with better editorial gatekeeping.

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The Hindu: Don’t compromise open justice

The Supreme Court’s judgment justifying a temporary ban on the publication of court proceedings in certain cases is likely to have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and the very idea of an open trial…. Indeed, by emphasising the right of an aggrieved person to seek postponement of media coverage of an ongoing case by approaching the appropriate writ court, there is a danger that gag orders may become commonplace. At a minimum, the door has been opened to hundreds and thousands of additional writs — a burden our legal system is unprepared to handle — filed by accused persons with means.

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Mint: Judgment and some worries

While the court prescribed tests of reasonableness, among others, on deciding issues of postponement, time is of the essence for media and citizens dependent on it for information. It is not far-fetched to presume that during this period of stasis, reporters and editors, can be arm-twisted into submission. The judgement whittles down an already embattled freedom available to the Press. It will add psychological pressure and uncertainty in an already difficult environment.

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Business Standard: Tilting the balance

Tuesday’s judgment has done is to tilt the balance in favour of litigants seeking court interventions — which might well result in the imposition of such gag orders on the media. To that extent, the apex court’s order is prone to misuse…. The legal process (of deferement) is certain to cast an adverse impact on the freedom of the media and undermine the people’s right to know about such cases before the court.

Instead of paving the way for such curbs, it would perhaps make more sense if the courts took upon themselves the responsibility of allowing independent and comprehensive electronic coverage of court cases that both the people and the media can freely access for information or reportage. That would be a more effective way of ensuring that the coverage of court proceedings does not create the risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice or to the fairness of trials.

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The Times of India: Chilling effect

The bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia came up with an alternative approach to maintaining the balance between free speech and fair trial. Drawing upon the contempt law, the apex court devised a judicial power to order the postponement of publication as a last resort. Even this, however, may negatively impact the salutary principle that trials be held in public, as powerful defendants could routinely invoke such postponement orders….  The media is anyway a heterogeneous entity and the right of journalists to cover court proceedings is an essential attribute of a fair trial.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

South media baron among top political donors

Mobile phone turned media baron and member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, continues to be a prominent donor to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, according to a list compiled by the asociation for democratic reforms (ADR).

Chandrasekhar, an independent member of the Rajya Sabha elected with BJP support, who owns the Malayalam news channel Asianet News and the Kannada news channel Suvarna News besides the Kannada daily Kannada Prabha, donated Rs 10 crore to the BJP in 2009-10 through two Corporation Bank cheques issued in the name of Asianet V Holding Pvt Ltd (address: Jay Chambers,  Service Road, Mumbai).

Simultaneously, Asianet TV Holdings Pvt Ltd operating from an identical address (address: Jay Chambers, service road, Vile Parle, Mumbai 400057) donated Rs 2.5 crore to the Congress in 2009-10 through a Corporation Bank (M.G. Road, Bangalore) cheque.

The general electoral trust of the salt-to-cellphone major Tatas, the Gujarat power company Torrent and Bharati electoral trust of the telecom company Airtel top the list of donors. The documents were procured by ADR under the right to information (RTI).

Also read: Media baron donates most to parties after Birlas

How Pakistan helped ‘The Hindu’ save $800!

A giant pack of 61 journalists—each told to carry at least $800 in foreign currency for their hotel stay—is accompanying Indian minister of external affairs, S.M. Krishna, on his much-ballyhooed visit of Pakistan.

But Praveen Swami, the deputy chief of bureau of The Hindu in Delhi—who did a brief stint as diplomatic editor of The Daily Telegraph, London, and who has repeatedly punched holes in the Pakistani narrative of terror with its army and government officials on television—will not be one of them.

For the record, The Hindu is one of the few Indian media houses with a correspondent (Anita Joshua) stationed in Islamabad.

The Times of India reports that Times Now journalist Nikunj Garg too was denied a Pakistani visa for a trip of then home minister, P. Chidambaram:

Praveen Swami told TOI that he was called by the High Commission early this week for a meeting with Press Attache Manzoor Ali Memon that lasted for over an hour after two Pakistani officials, who did not share their visiting cards with him, dropped in.

“I was asked no questions but instead handed out sermons by the two on how Indian and Pakistani media could join hands to counter American conspiracies,” Swami said.

The journalist gave them a patient audience and told them that he was ignorant about the revelations they had made about “American plots” and he “would love to catch up on the wikileaks evidence against America they were referring to.”

At the end of the meeting, Swami was gifted a book of poetry by Ahmad Faraz and non-fiction ‘Pakistan from mountain to sea‘ by Mohamed Amin, Duncan Willetts and Brendan Farrow.

Images: courtesy The Indian Express & The Daily Telegraph

Also read: I couldn’t go to the US, my name’s Zia Haq

How (free) India treats foreign correspondents

External reading: Muslim journos left out of PM’s trip