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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!!

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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.

Vinod Mehta, the Last Great Editor, 1942-2015

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sans serif records with deep regret the passing of the Editorial Chairman of Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta, in New Delhi on Sunday, 8 March 2015. He was 73 years old and had been ailing for some time.

He leaves behind his wife Sumita Paul, their canine companion, “Editor”, two brothers and a sister—and legions of orphaned colleagues, compatriots and competitors.

As the founding Editor-in-Chief of Outlook, Mr Mehta re-energised Indian magazine journalism with a freshness of approach, an openness of spirit, and a lightness of touch.

All through his long innings as editor, writer and a television talking head, Mr Mehta brought trademark wit, candour, and non-partisanship to the table, endearing him to readers and viewers, and to friends and foes, across the country and across the globe.

Rare is the rival who can’t find a good word.

Editor from the day he stepped into journalism from the advertising world in 1974, Mr Mehta’s first job was as editor of the monthly men’s magazine, Debonair. He founded India’s first weekly newspaper, The Sunday Observer, from where he went on to edit The Indian Post and The Independent in what was then Bombay.

Mr Mehta moved to Delhi in the early 1990s, when he became Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, but his 17-year helmsmanship of Outlook magazine was his longest tenure.

He was president of the Editors Guild of India and was, briefly, the writer and presenter of “Letter from India” on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4.

Born in Rawalpindi and brought up in Lucknow, the self-proclaimed “BA, second class” was the author of six books, three of which were biographies (Bombay, Sanjay Gandhi and Meena Kumari), two were memoirs (Lucknow Boy and Editor Unplugged), one was a compilation (Mr Editor, how close are you to the PM?”).

An undisguised cricket fanatic and foodie, Mr Mehta was a magnet of tasteful gossip which he deftly let loose into the system through his widely read diaries on the last page of Outlook.

Mr Mehta disliked hyperbole and big words. His motto in journalism was to make the important interesting, but Indian journalism is decidedly poorer today with the disappearance of a lodestar of professional integrity, on whom could easily be placed the sobriquet The Last Great Editor.

Photograph: Vinod Mehta (left) with Deepak Shourie and Jyotsna Shourie at the ground-breaking ceremony for the launch of Outlook in 1995.

When a veteran reporter heard he had the big ‘C’

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Journalists see plenty of disease, despair and death in the line of duty. Even if we do not entertain prospects of immortality, our near-constant exposure to the dark and grim side of life somewhat inures us to its only certainty.

But what when it hits home?

Krishna Vattam, for 40 years the Mysore correspondent of the Bangalore-based dailies Deccan Herald and Praja Vani, has been there, done that—and survived to tell the tale.

In a new book, Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, to mark the silver jubilee of his triumph, cancer-survivor Vattam describes how he heard the bad news 25 years ago, and what happened thereafter.

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By KRISHNA VATTAM

It was a hot day in the summer of 1990. A professional errand to a cancer detection camp, a chance stroke of luck, which brought unexpected and ever unsuspected developments, led me and my family to live through nearby a three-year period of agony, trauma, anxiety and uncertainty.

Call it a freak incident, an ordain of God or the graciousness of the Almighty – if I had skipped this visit to attend a far more important engagement, important from a journalist’s perspective, I wonder what would have happened and whether I would have been able to catch cancer in time and outwit the disease before those deadly cells had grown up to trip me into the abyss of no control, giving me no opportunity to look back and share my experiences with you today.

When I stepped out of my house on that sunny morning in the first week of April 1990 to attend the cancer detection camp, I least suspected that I was going there with the disease in my being.

The Bangalore–based Kidwai Memorial Cancer Hospital, in an outreach programme, had organized the camp in Mysore in the expansive Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry and it was the first of its kind in this city.

Bharath Cancer Hospital, which owes its existence to the vision of B.S. Ajai Kumar, an NRI Doctor, was opened in Mysore a few months after the Camp was conducted.

The local Jain community had sponsored the medical camp and medical practitioner Dr. Prasanna Kumar, an assistant professor at the JSS Medical College, who was a leading member of the community and my close friend, came to my residence and invited me to give the inaugural function of the camp.

He requested me to give a good coverage of it in the Deccan Herald, the leading English daily in Karnataka, which I was privileged to represent as its Mysore Correspondent.

A good number of people from the city and surrounding villages had registered their names at the Camp for getting examined, and it turned out to be that the ailments many of them were suffering from were unrelated to cancer.

There was a formal inaugural function of the Camp for about 45 minutes and after that the doctors dispersed to examine the registered camp attendees.

I do not call them patients, as in the strict sense of the word they were not. They had come to consult, since such free health check camps were rare in those days. It mattered little to them, whether the consultants they were seeing were oncologists or general practitioners, but, in their opinion, they were all doctors who could attend to any kind of ailment. I spent some time in the examination rooms.

I saw my friend Nissar Ahmed Shariff, a very good footballer, coming out with his mother from one such room, looking very depressed. As he saw me, he could not control his emotions and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he told me that the doctors suspected that his mother had cancer.

I was also moved and placed my right hand on his shoulder and comforted him saying “Don’t worry, God is with you”. Then he stepped forward and addressing his mother, who was standing behind him, with folded hands, said “Maaji, Ooperwala hai.”

It was easy to console and comfort others but when it comes to oneself, how helpless and distraught one could be, I realized very shortly thereafter.

A big printed pamphlet hung around the huge column of the Choultry building, caught my attention. This poster, which was printed both Kannada and English was one such public information in nature, asking people having those symptoms to get examined in the camp.

One such symptoms was “difficulty in swallowing”, I noticed.

It nearly shook me off the ground.

Yes, I had been experiencing this problem for some time now.

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It was around November 1989, about six months before this camp, I was attending the South Zonal Conference of the INTACH Conveners at Cochin, Kerala, as the Convener of the Mysore Chapter of the Indian National Trust Fort Art and Cultural Heritage.

As I was having lunch, I found it difficult to swallow the cooked rice. I stopped eating and set aside my plate in the basket meant for used dishes.

This did not worry me for after my return to Mysore. I felt normal and was able to eat without any difficulty.

But in February 1990, I experienced a similar problem while I was returning from Varanasi after participating in the National Conference of INTACH Conveners, I bought some oranges at the Varanasi Railway Station.

Once seated in a compartment I leisurely peeled an orange and put a small piece into my mouth and found I could not swallow the chewed orange. I went into the toilet compartment, thrust two fingers in my mouth and forcibly vomited the orange stuck in my gullet.

I felt relieved physically but I was worried. On my return to Mysore, I consulted a few ENT specialists and x-ray was also taken during the course of their examinations. None of them could detect anything abnormal. I felt reassured.

***

When I noticed “difficulty in swallowing” on the pamphlet at the cancer detection camp at the Nanjaraj Bahadur Choultry at Mysore on that day, as one of the symptoms of cancer, I began worrying.

Just a few minutes before, I had infused a sense of confidence in Nissar Ahmed and his mother I found myself in a state of shock now.

A press reporter who went to cover the inaugural function of the cancer detection camp got examined on realising that he too had one of the symptoms of Cancer. Here too the doctor who examined him assured that his difficulty in swallowing my not necessarily be related to cancer. He suggested having an x-ray taken in the mobile unit which had been brought along with the medical team from Bangalore.

The general human tendency is not to think of the worst and the words of the doctor that my problem may not be related to cancer as such, and his encouraging words, “Not to worry”, lulled me, so much so, that that I did not bother about my visit to the camp or about the x-ray in the days that followed. I was attending to my duties.

Ten days later at about 10.30pm the telephone rang at my house.

I took the receiver and heard “Is it Krishna Vattam”, a voice enquiring from the other end. “Yes, speaking”, I replied. “Vattam Saab, take it easy. From the x-ray that was taken in the camp, the doctors suspect it to be cancer. You have to go to Kidwai Hospital tomorrow,” the speaker at the other end informed me.

The word sounded like a death warrant to me. Even as he was speaking, I instantly began to experience shock waves passing through my body.

Like a paralytic, I felt that my legs were benumbed.

I could not stand and felt that I was being pushed down.

I squatted on my haunches still holding the receiver in my left hand.

I had not informed my mother or Kamala, my wife, about my visit to the cancer detection camp and the x-ray that was taken there.

I had felt that the change situation of the unintended “checkup” did not call for the family members being informed. Further I had thought that any such talk may unnecessarily lead them to worry about my health.

My mother, who was sitting on the cot next to the table on which the telephone was placed, jumped out and rushed towards me crying out, “devare” (oh God) as she saw me sink on my knees with the receiver in my hand.

Kamala, who was resting in the adjacent room, rushed to me, and I heard both of them, amma and wife, anxiously asking me over and over again, “What happened?” I babbled in a voice that faltered, “They say I have cancer.” These five words uttered by me made them feel that the world around us had collapsed.

I rested my head on the mother’s bosom just as I would have done as child after suckling, although the situation faced on that day by a 57-year-old son and his 82-year-old mother and suckling child of its young lactating young mother were of two different nature.

After all, the bond of a mother and a son in the same at all times. Kamala rested her head on my neck, and all of us were weeping. When Shyam, my son, returned home from Times of India office, where he was serving as a reporter of the paper, he found us all weeping.

Kamala was the first to break the news to him. He went out of the verandah, sat on the granite bench within our compound, and was sobbing silently.

Shortly, thereafter, amma and wife went out and began consoling him. “Our Lord Narasimha is there. Appa has done no harm to anyone. He will never let us down,” I heard my mother reassuring her grandson.

The beds for all of us to sleep on that night were spread out in the “hall”, the living room as it is known in common parlance in some parts of South India. None of us could sleep throughout the night. All of us had our eyes glued to the ceilings as we anxiously contemplated the future that had suddenly begun to look uncertain.

I held amma’s hand with an intense feeling of an assured protection and safety from her as I would have done as baby scared of ghosts.

In this confused and disturbed frame of mind, eager to avoid brooding over the call I received just an hour ago from Kidwai Hospital informing me about the suspected cancer in me, I began to reflect, as it were, on the tryst I had with destiny, the path I had followed throughout my life till then.

(Excerpted from Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, published by Darpan, an imprint of Prism Books, Rs 125)

***

Also read: ‘You can’t be a bad person but a good journalist’

Write to Krishna Vattam: krishnavattam@gmail.com

Telephone Krishna Vattam: 094-483-42549

A legend who told MLAs where to get off: RIP

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sans serif records the demise of S. Balasubramanian, the chairman of the Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan—who also served as its editor, managing director and publisher for 50 years—in Madras on Friday, December 19. He was 78.

Mr Balasubramanian hit the national headlines in 1987 when he was sentenced, arrested and jailed for refusing to apologise for a cartoon published on the cover of the magazine, which Tamil Nadu’s legislators deemed a “breach of privilege“.

“He was released in two days after protests erupted all over the country but our editor was not satisfied with that. He filed a lawsuit against his wrongful arrest, asked for token compensation and won his case,” cartoonist Madhan, who served as joint editor of the Vikatan group, said.

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A photo frame featuring the scanned image of a cheque for the compensation amount, two 500-rupee notes and two paper cuttings hung like a trophy on a wall behind his chair.

Pioneer of a student-journalism programme long before “newspapers in education” became famous, Mr Balasubramanian also was famous for not allowing tobacco advertisements in his mass-circulation publications.

Ananda Vikatan was founded by Mr Balasubramanian’s father, S.S. Vasan, who founded Gemini studios. Although arrested under the M.G. Ramachandran regime, Mr Balasubramanian had produced an MGR film called Sirithu Vazha Vendum (live life smiling).

Photographs: courtesy The Hindu

‘Deccan Chronicle’ says TOI is stealing its ads!

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classified both2 copy

Nothing is impossible in the merry world of Indian journalism.

Big newspapers (and magazines) flick stories from small ones without as much as acknowledgement. Big TV stations conduct whole debates on issues first flagged by newspapers (and magazines) without so much as a by-your-leave.

But at least there’s a word for it: plagiarism. What’s the equivalent in advertising?

In a first, the embattled Hyderabad newspaper Deccan Chronicle has accused The Times of India of stealing its “classified advertisements” and passing them off as its own.

Deccan Chronicle says between January 2013 and June 2013, nearly 1,000 such classifieds which first appeared in DC also appeared in ToI.

DC now has filed a criminal complaint against ToI.

For the record, Deccan Chronicle has been under attack from ToI in the Hyderabad market for the financial sins of its promoter, T. Venkatram Reddy.

Also, for the record, Hyderabad is the one city where ToI has not managed to make great headway. After 14 years of publication, one recent issue of the newspaper in September had 16 in-house advertisements.

Read the full story: TOI-ing with readers

When salary isn’t commensurate with circulation

The latest issue of Caravan magazine has more than just the story of former Indian Express editor-in-chief, Shekhar Gupta.

There is a fine profile of Eenadu bossman Ramoji Rao, and there are interesting numbers in a data analysis of the big newspapers by howindialives.com.

One of the charts (above) in the latter story is how the country’s biggest, most profitable media house—Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd—pays its staff.

The numbers show how, of the 81 employees whose 2014 salaries were disclosed to the ministry of corporate affairs by BCCL, only nine of them were of editorial staffers, all the rest being on the business side of the group.

“Even without including the salaries of the group’s proprietors, the Jain family—Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, their mother Indu Jain, Samir’s daughter Trishla Jain and her husband Satyan Gajwani—business salaries still constituted 89.5 per cent of this part of the payroll.”

Through the Shekhar Gupta profile, we learn that The Times of India‘s editorial director JaideepJojoBose earns under Rs 2 crore a year and the paper’s outgoing CEO Ravi Dhariwal earns about Rs 6 crore.

Shekhar Gupta as the CEO and editor-in-chief of The Indian Express earned more than JoJo and Dhariwal put together: over Rs 9 crore per annum.

Asked by Krishn Kaushik, the author of the Caravan profile, Shekhar Gupta says:

“Maybe you have to blame my employers for being too generous. [I decide the salaries of my subordinates] but someone else decides my salary. I work on that basis. And whoever decides has to make a calculation on what he’s getting, and if he’s being overly generous then it’s a question for him, not me. My job is to earn money, work as hard as I can and pay taxes.”

For the record, The Indian Express claimed a 2013 circulation of 400,000 copies before the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) and TOI declared over 4,700,000 copies.

Also read: 18 factoids from Caravan profile of Shekhar Gupta