Tag Archives: The Tribune

A ‘mile-high experience’ for the hack-pack

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A picture tweeted by the prime minister’s office (PMO) of the media scrum accompanying Manmohan Singh, as he answers questions in mid-air on his way back home after a five-day visit to the United States.

Among those identifiable, Raj Chengappa, editor-in-chief of The Tribune, Chandigarh (in suit, ahead of mikes); Jayanta Ghosal of Ananda Bazaar Patrika (behind him); Vijay Kumar Chopra, editor, Punjab Kesari (front row, aisle); and Mihir S. Sharma of Business Standard (third row, window seat).

In all, there were 34 newspaper, magazine and TV journalists on board.

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Shalini Singh bags 2013 Prem Bhatia award

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Shalini Singh, deputy editor of The Hindu and a former assistant editor with The Times of India, who did stellar reporting on the 2G spectrum and coal allocation scams afflicting the UPA government, has bagged the Prem Bhatia award for political reporting for 2013.

S. Nihal Singh, chairman of the four-member jury that decided on the award, said:

“We were impressed with Shalini Singh’s meticulousness in pursuing a story to its logical conclusion, which is not a quality to be found in many reporters. The whole idea of the award is to recognise journalists who show great promise, and Ms. Singh’s work on the 2G scam, Coalgate and her information-gathering skills made her a fit candidate.”

The award is named after Prem Bhatia, the former editor-in-chief of The Tribune, Chandigarh, who did spells at The Statesman, The Times of India and The Indian Express.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Scam-buster Josy Joseph gets Prem Bhatia prize

2011 Sanskriti award for Tehelka‘s Rana Ayyub

Aman Sethi bags Red Cross journalism prize

EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

Rema Nagarajan of ToI bags Nieman fellowship

Mint‘s Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

Why the SC tried to frame media guidelines

What was behind the Supreme Court of India’s urge and urgency to frame guidelines for media coverage? The thinly veiled insinuations on the Chief Justice made by public interest litigants and dutifully carried by the media?

The veteran journalist, columnist and author Kuldip Nayar givesa couple of conspiracy theories some oxygen, in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

Having observed S.H. Kapadia for nearly his entire term as Chief Justice of India, it became evident to me that the allegations that surfaced after he delivered the judgment in the landmark Vodafone tax case hurt him deeply. A petition wanting to keep Justice Kapadia out of the case made its way to the apex court.

As expected, it was dismissed by another bench, but it left a scar on Justice Kapadia’s mind.

Justice Kapadia is known to be a voracious reader and consumer of the media. The play the petition received in the Press, particularly since it involved his son, Hoshnar, took a toll on him.

Subsequently, another article alleged that since his son-in-law, Jahangir Press, worked for the Tata Group, Justice Kapadia should not hear cases involving the corporate house. He transferred all Tata Group matters to other benches.

The media did not notice this at the time, but the move spoke volumes about how much his reputation meant to him. Justice Kapadia came from a modest background and, once famously said, integrity was the only asset he possessed.

The manner in which the media lapped up allegations against him, perhaps, hurt Justice Kapadia. The 11-13 complaints he received from senior counsels and letters, he said, he got from under-trials, claiming the media had condemned them even before a court convicted them, was probably what made Justice Kapadia constitute the five-judge constitution bench to deal with media excesses.

Read the full article: Media in the CJI’s court

Also read: ‘Darkest hour for media since Emergency?

‘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

The ‘sardar in the lightbulb’ signs out suddenly

Seventy years after he started needling readers and 42 years after he wrote his first column, the “sardar in the lightbulb” will shine no more. Khushwant Singh, the dirty old man of Indian journalism, says he is now too old (and maybe just a little less dirty) to dish out malice towards one and all any more.

“I’m 97, I may die any day now… I’ll miss the money, and the people fawning over me to write about them in my columns,” Singh says in on his self-imposed exile into silence, in Outlook* magaqzine.

Singh began his career as a journalist in1940, writing for The Tribune, contributing book reviews and profiles under the byline ‘KS’. His first regular column appeared in the planning commission journal Yojana.

Editor’s Page, in the Illustrated Weekly of India under his now famous sardar-in-lightbulb logo, first appeared in 1969. The column migrated with Singh to National Herald, and in 1980, to the Hindustan Times. The now-defunct Sunday Observer was the first to buy the rights to it in 1981.

After he left Hindustan Times in the mid-’80s, Khushwant began syndicating his column. His two columns appeared every week without fail for the last 30 years in a dozen national dailies and translated into 17 languages.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

Barkha Dutt tarred by pure malice: Khushwant

Khushwant Singh stands up for Barkha Dutt, again

Roasted almonds, biscuits & tea for gang of five

The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, with the five newspaper editors he met for an interaction in New Delhi yesterday. Seated from left, clockwise, are the national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Divya Marathi editor Kumar Ketkar, Nayi Duniya editor Alok Mehta, the PM’s media advisor Harish Khare, The Tribune editor Raj Chengappa, PTI editor M.K. Razdan, Business Standard director and the president of the editors guild of India, T.N. Ninan, and PM’s secretary T.K.A. Nair.

Photographs: courtesy Press Trust of India

Also read: The preliminary transcript; The PM’s opening remarks

POLL: Is the PM right about the Indian media?

A pre-Google ‘Bomb Mama’ of nuclear prolificity

The passing away of K. Subrahmanyam, the bureaucrat turned strategic affairs expert and journalist, at the age of 82 after a valiant battle with cancer, has provoked a flurry of warm tributes in newspapers.

The former Economic Times editor Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, who brought “Subbu” into ET, recalls Subrahmanyam’s prolificity:

“Many journalists have trouble coming out with even two column ideas in a week, but Subrahmanyam wanted to write almost every day, so wide was his repertoire and so deep his enthusiasm.

“I once asked how he came up with so many ideas. He replied, ‘It’s easy. I just have to watch CNN or BBC and I get so angry that I have several things to say!'”

In The Times of India, which “Mr Subs” joined as a consulting editor after his retirement from the IAS in 1987, Jug Suraiya writes of the seniormost member of the edit page who earned the nickname “Bomb Mama”—an affectionate portmanteau encapsulating the Tamil Brahmin‘s hawkish advocacy of a nuclear India.

“Nuclear weapons are anti-life, and I believe in the sanctity of human life, I told Mr Subs once.

“‘Why do you restrict yourself to human life? Why not the sanctity of all life?” replied Mr Subs, who is a strict vegetarian, while I’m a peacenik carnivore with a queasy conscience.

“”Touche,” I said, ceding the intellectual and moral high ground to him.

Subrahmanyam, however, wrote in 2008 of the irony of The Times of India not taking up his offer to write the editorial the day India went nuclear in 1998:

“My colleagues, including the editor in charge of the editorial page, declined my offer. They told me that they were anti-nuclear and, therefore, the editorial would disapprove of the test. They knew I was in favour of India acquiring nuclear weapons and, therefore, I could not write the edit.

“I was amused at the irony of the situation. The same paper had provided me a powerful platform in the eighties to campaign for the nuclear option and in the nineties against India acceding to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Now when India conducted the tests and finally brought about the fulfilment of my three-decade-old campaign, I could not write the edit about the subject.

“Fortunately, at that stage I had a call from H. K. Dua, who was functioning as the editor of the paper. He not only asked me to write an article but also offered to feature it on the front page of the paper.”

In the Indian Express, the veteran political commentator and the former editor of The Times of India in Delhi, Inder Malhotra, writes of Subrahmanyam’s encyclopaedic knowledge:

“He was blessed with a phenomenal memory and an equally prodigious capacity for work. Whenever in doubt about any fact, I rang him up and, as a kind and gracious friend, he gave me the information I needed in a jiffy.”

The ToI tribute in the print edition quotes colleagues who worked with him as saying that, before Google, the one-stop information kiosk was Subbu:

“We joked about sending him to Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and sharing his spoils. He would say, ‘But I will get stuck on film questions.’ You can always use phone-a-friend to call us, he was told.”

In The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan writes on the essence of Subrahmanyam, fast vanishing in modern-day journalism:

“For one who worked in government for many years, Subrahmanyam prized his independence which he saw as the key to his integrity. I have had three careers, he once said when asked why he had turned down the offer of a Padma Vibhushan — as a civil servant, a strategic analyst and a journalist.

“’The awards should be given by the concerned groups, not the Government. If there is an award for sports, it should be given by sportspersons, and if it’s for an artists, by artists.’ The state, he believed, was not qualified to judge different aspects of human endeavour.”

For one who was at the centre of many of India’s biggest events, “Bomb Mama” found himself become a bargaining chip for hijackers in 1984, an incident the Hindustan Times recalls:

“His reputation was such that in the 1984 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Lahore, the hijackers tried to argue during their trial that Subrahmanyam’s presence on the aircraft proved New Delhi had engineered the whole thing so he could “examine Pakistan’s nuclear installations.”

External reading: B.G. Verghese on K. Subrahmanyam