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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

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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!!

Why NaMo shouldn’t take media on foreign trips

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media on the way back home from the United States in October 2013. There were 34 journalists on that junket.

As Indian journalists come to terms with a Narendra Modi dispensation that doesn’t want to court them or take them on foreign junkets, K.P. Nayar, the former Washington correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, writes that the US administration is no better.

Each correspondent who accompanied US president Barack Obama on his trip to India had to shell out $8,400 (approximately Rs 500,000) in air fare, plus an additional $2,500 (Rs 150,000) for a hop-across to Amritsar, plus $1,000 (Rs 60,000) for renting the hotel hall where administration officials briefed the media, plus “filing charges”, plus coffee, plus tea, etc.

All in stark contrast to the pampering and molly-coddling of India media bigwigs by Indian administrations, who not only misuse taxpayer’s money on foreign trips but also throw their weights around in ways that embarrass the tricolour.

To illustrate the point, Nayar, quotes three incidents:

# The most appalling incident of media highhandedness that I was witness to was at Cairo airport, some 20 years ago, when a very senior journalist flung his boarding pass in the face of an Air India ground hostess because his seat had been changed for the next leg of the prime minister’s flight. He then walked off and had to be pacified by having his chosen seat restored before the Egyptian police physically restrained him for breach of security because he was on the tarmac.

The fault-lines go beyond the fourth estate and intersect the government’s media management because this gentleman is a former media adviser to a prime minister: for the record, not one of any recent appointees.

# Accompanying P.V. Narasimha Rao to the UN general assembly one year, we were alighting at the media hotel, the Lexington, once owned by the Tatas.

Two senior colleagues urged me to follow them if I wanted to watch some fun. An owner-editor, who was the first to reach the media centre, was already on the phone to his news desk.

Mein pahoonch gaya hoon [I have reached],” he blared into the phone, “Pradhan mantri bhi pahoonch gaya hai. Baaki sab agency lena. [The prime minister has also reached. All the rest you take from the agencies].”

He put down the phone, then called his office again as an afterthought, “Oh, mera byline dal dena [Oh, put my byline in).” That was his professional contribution for the day. He was soon out in jeans and walking shoes enjoying the Big Apple.

# Visiting Bhutan, Indira Gandhi once strolled into the quarters of the accompanying media. An agency correspondent then, the late A.N. Prabhu’s door was open and she peeped in to find a carton prominently labelled “Bhutan Rum” on the floor.

“What is it, Prabhu?” she asked. “Apples,” Prabhu replied, unfazed.

“I would like some of those apples too,” she smiled. 

Read the full article: Big egos and bylines

Also read: A mile-high experience for the hack pack

How Pakistan helped The Hindu save $800

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

Poonam Pandey, Sachin Tendulkar & Telegraph

There are many pertinent questions to be asked about the unbridled (and burgeoning) use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media as a source of news by newspapers and TV stations—not to mention websites like these.

One of those questions faces The Telegraph, Calcutta, which carried a picture* posted by the actor-stripper Poonam Pandey on her Twitter account (@iPoonampandey) in its tabloid t2 section on Monday.

In the picture*, Pandey—who threatened to pose nude if India won the cricket 2011 World Cup—stands naked with a photograph of “God” as an offering to Sachin Tendulkar, who scored his 100th hundred in Dhaka last week.

“Thinking what pic should I gift the “God of Cricket”…. This historic moment reminds me of an old pic which one of my fans had morphed…. this was the pic….”

The use of a tiny picture* in a city tabloid to celebrate the momentous occasion has resulted in a fullblown communal issue in Calcutta.

Wednesday’s Telegraph carried a front-page appeal by the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

“Some people are trying to stoke violence over a photograph published in a newspaper. I appeal to all members of the Hindu and Muslim commuities to steer clear of any provocation. The newspaper which carried the picture today tendered an apology.”

The Telegraph‘s apology, also carried on page one, read:

The Telegraph tenders an unconditional apology for reproducing a tweet by @iPoonpandey in Monday’s edition of t2. The publication was the result of a technical error. The Telegraph had no intention to hurt the sentiments of any community. We sincerely apologise for the hurt the publication of the tweet has caused.”

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* photograph for representative purposes

A quick lesson from The Hindu on court reporting

A clarification published on the home page of The Hindu today on a front-page news story by the paper’s Supreme Court correspondent J. Venkatesan published in the paper.

The story and the clarification come on the day the SC took up the issue of reporting of court cases by the media following applications from three prominent lawyers (Fali Nariman in SEBI-Sahara case, Harish Salve in the Vodafone case, and K.K. Venugopal in the Times Now case).

Did Chidambaram walk out of Express awards?

The grapevine is that some ministers boycotted events in which media houses had chosen members of Team Anna for awards last year. Now, this item appears in the gossip columns of The Sunday Guardian.

Apparently home minister P. Chidambaram vamoosed from the Ramnath Goenka excellence in journalism awards function organised by The Indian Express after he found that 2G scam-buster J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer had been picked for the best print journalist f the year.

Orders have been reserved for February 4 on Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy‘s plea seeking to make Chidambaram a party in the 2G scam, alongside A. Raja, who was felled by Gopikrishnan.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Also read: The Pioneer journo who brought A. Raja to book

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

SMS IPUB4 TO 51818 for journalist of the year