Editors’ Guild of India
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I am in the middle of writing a book on World History where I show strands where the reality is vastly different to the narrative we have been fed through newspapers and academia. My compass is big, covers all continents, and this endeavour would take up my four years by a modest estimate.
One of the problems I am confronted with is references. Most books I pick have references which appear untrue. For instance, Pyarelal Nayyar, the personal secretary of Mahatma Gandhi mentions an incident from Second Boer War (1899-1902), quoting Natal Mercury where the date is before the event happened. It’s not typo, there are several such instances.
We are not talking of biases here. That is given in most cases. You pick facts and incidents to your liking. My issue is with “creating” those facts and incidents. People in social media, newspapers, TV channels are doing it all the time. These “fakes” are repeated, read or seen by millions and shape people’s opinions—and actions.
This is the background in which I want the present issue of journalists in India being hauled up be seen. Two prominent names, Sudhir Chaudhary and Arnab Goswami, are such. The are perceived to speak the Centre’s line and it has put them in crosshairs of opposition states. In Himachal Pradesh, 14 FIRs have been filed against five reporters. This is likewise in UP, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and in many other states. Indian Express is moving heavens on one of their reporters facing action for what Delhi Police believes to be “fake news” on Tablighi Jamaat’s head, Maulana Saad. Is media’s freedom a thing of the past?
There are no clear-cut answers and there would never be. None of us can expound an opinion and say: Yes, that’s it. How can journalism survive if State is the Big Brother watching them all the time? How would State function if media is like an ass in a pottery shop, to borrow a metaphor from Aesop’s fables.
None of us would deny that State is prejudiced; and media is biased. Or that we don’t live in the world of corporate media. Power and money, the two essential evils, are working all the time to grow bigger today than they were yesterday. It could only be at the cost of citizenry, the sheep to be sheared, Where are the arbiters in this toxic, noxious air?
There could be many arbiters but let’s begin with judiciary which has the final word. What do they go by with? Our Constitution doesn’t provide freedom to press as an enshrined Article. Most of it is presumed under Article 19 (1-a). This is the Right to Freedom of speech and expression to individuals. This is Liberty, the root of democracy. Ideally, media shouldn’t be interpreted from this prism. Unlike individuals, media is a “watchdog” for public interest which gives them privileged access to men and matters.
Yes, there is Press Council Act of 1978. It’s to ensure freedom of press as well as pull up media if untruthful. In essence Press Council is just a talk shop. Most members are hand-picked. Editors’ Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are no better. Their credibility is zilch. In essence, it’s a Big Boys Club who keep public interest out of their rounds of drinks.
Ombudsman, a neutral voice of credibility, was once deemed an important self-regulatory organ, to keep the content truthful. It has been a joke on us for last two decades if not more.
Then there are unseen arbiters, we the readers, the citizens, the suckers. Both the State and media would prefer us to be blindfolded, to be goaded into alleys of their own mischiefs. We don’t get the truth from either; yet we tilt one way or the other. An irony: Those who can’t do without us, have little of our interest on their minds.
The time has come to draw a line in the sand. Ambiguity must give way to well-defined laws. Journalists must follow the time-tested dictums: Present both sides of story; name your source who wish to be quoted or don’t use it at all. I agree it’s not possible in political reporting but don’t let a good story come in the way of a patient’s good who is on a ventilator.
I also know it’s easier said than done: your editors are mostly handpicked by your employers to serve their business or political agenda. That “little journo” on the desk, the sub-editor, also is prone to rejig your story in a manner which could induce a saucy headline and cause you embarrassment next morning. I doubt if there is any reporter who hasn’t muttered a swear to an editor/sub-editor on the final output.
State, on their part, must not allow mischief by press. But it also shouldn’t use the long arm of law to settle personal scores or come down on an investigative story. Mostly, States should limit itself to denying a news or offering a clarification. Or be a mouthful like Trump is to despicable US media. But state action or imprisonment isn’t on. Individuals could evoke defamation suit: Like Sonia Gandhi should have done against Arnab Goswami. It was shameful to involve a state machinery for her personal score.
Press is the breath of democracy: All you need is a strong filter. Putting a lid would suffocate it to death.
On the HRD’s move on “fake news”, now jettisoned, the strategy of Mainstream Media (MSM) has been two-pronged: One, it’s an assault on freedom of press (yawn); two, government must define what’s “news’.
The second defence is a stonewalling lawyer’s argument and it fittingly it has come from Manish Tewari who is from the Congress stable of Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Sanghvi (the names say it all).
So what’s “news”? News is information. If it is not truthfully reported, it’s “fake news”. One wonders why Tewari, once an Information minister, never came to ask the media houses: “Sirs and Madams, that you are in the business of news, what does news really amount to?” Wish somebody had asked him while he was in the minister’s chair: “Sir, what do you think is news”. Mr Minister himself would’ve escorted the journo out of the door. (As an aside, imagine worrying about the freedom of press when not being able to define news as per se!).
So the idea is, if you can’t define what’s news, how would you define what’s “fake news”? This jugglery was meant to stonewall and embarrass Smriti Irani. Tiwari and presstitutes of course would take no note of a number of fake news which appear on MSM daily and which OpIndia so brilliantly clubbed together recently.
Don’t expect presstitutes to come clean when caught with pants down. It runs to Press Council of India (PCI) for every speck of dust in the eye. But when the PCI chairman sees value in government’s move, the rogues of the stable—that’s mainstream media—don’t publish it.
These rogues are not obliged to any regulatory measure.
These shameless feel no accountability towards their readers.
They wouldn’t care to inform you that accredited journalists do not amount to entire community.
These thugs won’t tell you that the charm of being “accredited journalists” are the perks and benefits which comes with the tag.
Only if the Editor’s Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association were under the RTI, we would’ve known how many, IF ANY, transgressions of mainstream media in all these years these two august bodies have censored. Or whether the only time they clear their throat is when they cry “Assault on Freedom of Press.”
Where all this jockeying leaves the readers? No better than vegetables in the eyes of the presstitutes. Freedom of press? My foot. Freedom to loot and subvert; and scavenge on dead is more like it.
And India can go to hell.
India Express, the pallbearer, err…flagbearer of Indian Mainstream Media, for two days running on its front page (there would be more Front Pages in coming days, be assured) has gravely stated (in its editorial) how the authorities are browbeating the journalists of this country.
The matter relates to a Tribune story in which one of its reporter could gain access to as many Aadhaar numbers as desired by buying a login and password for only Rs 500 only. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Aadhaar’s regulatory body, in retaliation has gone to police, and lo and behold, all hell has broken loose. Indian Express, along with press bodies and Amnesty International, not to forget the Congress and other opposition skunks, are beating their breasts in mourning.
A few questions to these pall-bearers are in order. Let’s begin with Indian Express. My beloved newspaper, why have you chosen to blank (sic) the statement of Delhi Police of Sunday which could have answered most of your insinuations misleading your innocent readers?
The Police in its official statement has stated that UIDAI had filed a “open-ended” complaint with the former’s cyber cell which the Police later converted into an FIR. Why then defame a regulatory body with a “crime” they never committed? Why hide the facts?
Two, while you cry hoarse and run your throat dry, why not report that the FIR says “unknown” under the column “accused”? Why hide the facts?
When UIDAI hasn’t named Tribune or its reporter as “accused” how could it be an attack on the freedom of the press? Could reporting a sequence of events be construed as an attack on free press?
(We must chip in and be on our feet to applaud the Police. When fake MSMs are misleading the public and avoid/neglect official reactions, the regulatory authorities increasingly are resorting to Social Media, press conferences, advertisements and official statements to convey their side of the story. Way to go, folks).
Three, Indian Express actually should admonish fellow Tribune and its reporter for wasting Rs 500 when the allowed access is only to help personnel/officials address the grievances of citizens. Without security measures—highly encrypted ones—such as biometrics and iris, the newspaper report is not a “data breach” and can only be described as “misreporting” which the UIDAI has dryly noted.
Now let’s come to other jokers. Google practically has no trace of Editors’ Guild of India hard as I tried. No website. All I could do was to find it has just 2 tweets (yes, TWO!) since its’ joining in 2016. Such media-shy body is the custodian of free media in this country. The most my search could yield was a 2014 report which showed Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Seema Chisti, Kumar Ketkar among others as its working committee members. And oh yes, Mrinal Pande as its specially invited member.
Indian Express quotes Editors’ Guild extensively and the latter is shown using grave words such as “booked” and “penalized” and “persecuted” when its just an FIR (converted too) and doesn’t name anyone as “accused.” Given the gravitas of this jury if it still happens to be around, you would believe the basic understanding of IPC is not beyond them. Surely, I do trust my washerman to come out with flying colours if he was subjected to such a test.
Such distinguished people ought to ask Indian Express–and themselves—whether betraying paying readers with fake news, and mounting a campaign in its support, amount to “cheating or loot” under the Indian Penal Code.
You also have Indian Women’s Press Corps in protest. Before you express your surprise at what’s our women journos grouse is in this case, you must be told the Tribune reporter happens to be a woman. Next time issues of “triple talaq” and other such matters flicker in your mind, my advisory is don’t look for the reaction of this august body. You see, women with pen aren’t the same as women under burqa.
And oh yes, there is Amnesty International too (Sorry folks, there was no prize for guessing). An important tycoon of “human rights industry.” An organization which is openly accused of being a “servant of US Warmongering Foreign Policy”, a ‘soft-power” of post-War colonialism, is outraged at the UIDAI move to protect its shed.
Let me share a fact-sharing website, Mental Floss, to bring a few truths on Amnesty International to light. The organization was inspired by the arrest of two Portuguese students in 1960 which may never have happened! This very organization had accused Nelson Mandela of promoting violence and didn’t campaign for his release in 1963-64. It concedes it takes money from governments “in some cases.”
(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP, Ravindra Kishore Sinha, has sought Privileges Proceedings against top brass of Indian Express, namely, (a) Vivek Goenka, chairman; (b) Rajkamal Jha, chief editor; (c) Ritu Sarin and (d) Shyamlal Yadav on its “motivated attempt to tarnish his reputation” via expose on “Paradise Papers” on November 6, 2017.
In a letter written to Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman, Rajya Sabha, published as an advertisement in newspapers on Wednesday, Sinha has accused Indian Express of “unethical journalism…in the name of freedom of the press.”
Indian Express had alleged that Sinha was “illegally associated with (a) an offshore company, viz SIS Asia Pacific Holding Limited (SAPHL), incorporated in Malta; (b) that his nomination papers of Rajya Sabha election in 2014 didn’t declare his interest in offshore entities.
In his detailed letter/advertisement, Sinha has pointed out
- Malta has an approved jurisdiction of full Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India and doesn’t amount to “tax evasion, money laundering or any malafide intent”;
- His holding company recently underwent “in-depth scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)…covering all regulations, including the Companies Act, Income Tax Act, SCRA, Stamp Act, FIPB, FEMA etc…no deficiency was found in terms of compliance.”
- Rajya Sabha nomination form requires only “provisions of details of Assets and Liabilities of which I am the owner or direct beneficiary” which is not true in Sinha’s case (see the full advertisement in pic).
Sinha’s anguish stems from a clearly “vested interest” of Indian Express in publishing the report—and a sneering a mocking version of it online—which he termed as “misleading and devoid of facts,” despite Sinha having shared the details with Indian Express !
Over to Sinha:
“These facts were transparently shared with the Indian Express team prior to publication of the news report. Despite that, they have carried the misleading report devoid of facts and indulged in reputation assassination for vested interests.”
“If the Indian Express claims to be the beacon of independent journalism, why are they not targeting other reputed public figures such as Sachin Pilot, P. Chidambaram, Pinarayi Vijayan etc who have all been named in the ICU Paradise Papers?”
“The Indian Express report is unethical journalism in the name of freedom of the press/freedom of speech and is motivated attempt to tarnish my reputation built over decades. It is extremely sad to see the high standards of neutral and independent journalism set by Ramnath Goenka being destroyed under the current editorial leadership.”
In one word: Damning!!!
One doesn’t know if Sinha tried to put this advertisement in Indian Express for it’s not in its today’s edition. Or, if he did and failed in his attempt. Still, the matter is now in public domain and Express would’ve to come up with an explanation.
At least the Privilege Proceedings against Indian Express is being sought for. Whether Editors’ Guild of India reacts to it is a guess as good as yours as mine. Press Council of India, a Central Statutory Authority, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting—Mrs Smriti Irani being at the helm—surely should step in as Fake News in Mainstream Media—Lutyens’ Media—is more rampant than ever.