Maya “Bush”: Goa Sting Operator Who Gave Up Anonymity

The multiple exploits of Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, the journalist who exposed Goa’s paid news racket, pulled off a prank by planting a fake Nazi story in several well-read dailies, and has held up a mirror to the media in other ways. He is known in Goan media circles as Bhushan, or The Bush. He has written an hilarious article titled  ‘Pimples on Paradise’ about the various corrupt activities of media in Goa in newslaundry.com:

“Bhushan gives the home minister too much tension. He gives the chief of police too much tension as well. He is too straightforward.”

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

I live in Goa. In a small corner in that paradise.In that corner, where I live, there aren’t any dancing virgins. There’s only journalists. And crimson trails of torn professional hymens.

And the story I have to tell is not new. It isn’t even a big story.Like the one which spilled out with the Nira Radia tapes. There’s no Barkha Dutt. There’s no Vir Sanghvi. Not even a relatively low-brow, shrill Prabhu Chawla.

The story is about a small place. The heroes here are a lot smaller in scale. So are the villains. But the stories from this small place are as interesting as the ones which come from the big cities. Trust me. The sweet, warm smell of purification reeks the same everywhere.

As the author of this piece, I will reserve stories involving me for later.

The first story’s a comparison between two opposite journalistic poles.

This is the story of Ash. And the story of Pats.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa. But then he went on and did three things over the last few years – not necessarily in the order listed. He became a founding member of a newspaper employees union seeking fair working conditions. Later, he contested civic elections after putting in a legit leave of absence. Third, he befriended me.

Result: He has been virtually unemployed for the last four of the eight years. There are four daily English newspapers in Goa. One monthly news magazine. And several other news, feature and lifestyle magazines. But no jobs to be had for him. In my honest opinion, he has the professional wherewithal to fit into any newspaper set up across the country.

The one reason which editors and newspaper managements in Goa give him for rejecting his job application, is his ‘voluble’ support and perceived involvement in an anonymous media critiquing blog I ran by the name of Penpricks. And he wasn’t even part of it.

Directorate of Official language organized a book release function on 31st May 2010 at Maquinize Palace, Panaji at the hands of Shri Digambar Kamat, Hon’ble C. M./Minister of Official Language in the distinguished presence of renowned music director Shri Ashok Patki, following three books were released in the function, one of which was “Vikas Khara Khota” written by Goa’s most prominent, resourceful, respectful and seniormost journalist, editor Shri Raju Nayak (extreme right) in Marathi
(note: This picture is not suggestive of any imaginative character in the article. It is only published here to show how Goa governments has been encouraging prominent literary personalities from all walks of life to promote art & culture.

Now, Pats has also been around a bit. He’s on the vernacular end of things. His honest cherry popped early and was perhaps replaced by a big red plum. He was caught using a ruling Congress politician’s credit card for wardrobe shopping. Took paid-news suparis regularly. Bought a few mining trucks. Started real estate projects. Until one fine day he was asked to leave by his newspaper management, when they discovered that he hadn’t withdrawn from his salary account for several years. Within a month he was snapped up by another vernacular newspaper and his cycle of corruption renewed once again.

The second story has no central characters. There were just too many of them during the run-up to the assembly elections in March this year, for any one in particular to take centre stage. Early during the campaign, both the Congress and the BJP came in with war chests to cultivate the media. Well, there’s still no confirmation of the exact monies doled out to the media here. But then there’re things you see for yourself. While one political party offered journalists covering the polls tablet phones along with money, another party simply offered cash on the barrel. So if you see media folk in Goa who suddenly flaunt a tablet phone and tell-tale signs of a sudden flush of cash, chances are you may have just spotted a bad egg.

The deal struck between journalists and newspaper managements and poll contestants these last elections was relatively uncomplicated, but also had a sheen of innovation.

Conventionally, the concept of paid news involves payment of money for publishing of favourable content. During the March elections however, the paid-news deals involved not just writing favourably about one candidate, but also blanking out news involving his opponents. Paid-news emerged as an evolved and a matured entity this time round.

Those interested in looking up lop-sided reportage, could scan the poll coverage in the Herald for a comparative analysis of assembly constituencies like Fatorda, Curchorem, Quepem, etc, where the coverage has been extremely ‘unusual’ to say the least. There were other newspapers who did it too, but none with the élan of the above-mentioned newspaper.

And then there’s this little story about me.

I’ve been a working journalist since 1997. I have worked for The Asian Age in Mumbai, Herald in Goa, Tehelka in New Delhi and have also been part of a band of journalists who produced investigative news software for television channels. And then I’ve done some writing on and critiquing of the media in Goa over the years. There’s the story about editorials for sale. Then there was the fake story about a holocaust varmint Nazi being arrested by a fictitious secret German police unit floated by me which was published in several newspapers across India and the globe. Then there was another story about newspapers publishing sex advertisements promoting prostitution, where instead of listing the pimp’s number, I inserted phone numbers of the same editors whose newspapers published these lewd and solicitous adverts. There was also the story of how the Goa Editor’s Guild (GEG) set out to gag the media critique blog, by listing the item on the agenda of an official Guild meeting. And then another one establishing paid news in these assembly elections in Goa.

Result: I’ve had to do my bit of scrounging. I have been at the bottom of the barrel for a spell. In the course of exposing the above-mentioned stories, I’ve been out of a job for a long while. There was no money coming in so I resorted to all sorts of odd writing jobs, since writing is the only paying skill I possess. I did some cheap sweatshop commercial-writing by pitching to postings on craigslist. I’ve written and rewritten about yoga mats. About turd-cleaning devices, which help you clear dog poo off the floor, without leaving stains. I’ve even written tasty little descriptors for websites hosting porn films and sleazeclips, sometimes making $2 for 500 words.

All this, until a friend and fellow journalist Fredrick Noronha voluntarily and graciously gave up his job writing for a news agency from Goa, so that I could pitch for it.

So now every story told through the ages has had its morals. And I am still looking for the morals in mine.

But like I said earlier. The story is the same everywhere. Journalistic corruption is not special to Goa. Dammit, it’s not even as big as the big metros. So why did I do the things I did and say the things I have over here?

Things come across a lot clearer in smaller places. There’re fewer people. Fewer buffers. Fewer layers of camouflage. There’s lesser intrigue. The smaller journalistic microcosm of Goa is representative of the profession’s ills and helps one understand the depravity of the broader journalistic setup in India in an easy way.

A shot of Goan feni in a Goan tavern works as well as the finest scotch in Delhi’s tony, well-heeled clubs. But what would cost you ten bucks here could cost you a few hundred quid in Delhi, with perhaps a Bangkok junket thrown in for good measure.

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Budget Coverage Ki Dhulai: Chief Dhobi Abhinandan Sekhri Wet-Cleans News Channels !!!

 Budget Coverage Ki Dhulai: Abhinandan Sekhri

It was budget day. And it played out predictably. Couch potatoes and TV viewers in our studio gave it a luke warm response. No big ticket ideas, no investment in new formats or real attempt to reform budget coverage.

There was a sharp increase in how taxing viewing most screen space was. Anyone with less than 50 different information boxes of text on the screen was outside the advertizing bracket.

Corporate Czars and economists were on premium with a huge subsidy granted by channels to Industry captains on nation building rhetoric as all of them suddenly had a surplus of concern for the aam aadmi, profit making was secondary which to believe would require a huge incentive or at least a rollover of disbelief.

Below: is this Pranab’s new scheme – win Rs. 1 lakh every hour? Nope! It’s a scheme sponsored by Toyota who incidentally have raised their car prices immediately after the budget so you know where that Rs. 1 lakh to be won every hour came from.

We don’t know what Dimples tweeted but Headlines today tickered that Rahul Gandhi thinks it is a good budget. This could have led to a market rally somewhere in Bhatta Parsaul if only they were watching.

People at NDTV were having the most fun with Prannoy Roy, Shweta Rajpal Kohli and 6 other guests. There was a jovial quotient surplus and known faces deficit, possibly a low cost option in the backdrop of high inflationary trends.

Headlines Today had a Sunil Alagh surplus (even a little bit is too much) and Times Now is suffering from a Lord Meghnad Desai surplus – in fact Lord Maghnad Desai is suffering from a Lord Meghnad Desai surplus.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw had a valuable input contribution deficit and silence surplus and her window on screen looked like the Mona Lisa frame as she sat there and kind of smiled.

There were no major cash voucher scheme but many vouchers for how Pranab Da has missed the bus. Arnab led the rally with a– “Has he chosen to miss the bus?” Possibly he prefers railways now.  Another person boxed in a window spoke up – “But he did find out the bus route.”

Mona Lisa Mazumdar Shaw broke her silence – “He (Pranab Mukherji) hasn’t missed the bus, but the bus has a flat tyre.”

Who will change the tyre inquired Arnab. The rubber industry has not yet felt the impact but automobiles are more expensive already.

Headlines today if not issuing bonds is certainly bonding with young viewers with a thumbs up thumbs down (Like-dislike this video like You Tube/ facebook) format. The growth projection of this kind of simple quantification of all issues is expected to be not just double but in triple digits.

No GST no FDI no fiscal consolidation said Udayan. Whose frame had a profile surplus and a who are you talking to surplus and look at us please.

On all channels there was a windows surplus and this budget was sponsored by the Aditya Birla Group, their logo appearing everywhere. Don’t know about anyone else but the budget gave them a bang for their buck for sure.

And then the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh interview slowed down the rate of growth of any entertaining activity and bored the shit out of everyone. Breaking News – Swaminathan Aiyar stayed awake through the interview.

Swaminathan Aiyar had a smile surplus trying in vain to balance the smile deficit on the PM who was overflowing with poker face surplus.

FICCI slammed the budget in the backdrop of a car slamming a suitcase which turned out to be robust enough to withstand the car impact. Ditto for FICCI and Pranabda.

However Defence Minister Anthony might have had an eloquence deficit when he said “Budget is good.” Which was communicated with a font size surplus by CNN-IBN.

“Commendable budget” was Kapil Sibal at his poetic best as tickered by CNN-IBN with a distraught shirtless boy in the background asking for help as he was stripped of cash, wallet and clothes. His network was working – 2G. No loss there.

Am not sure about the WPI index but the WTF index went through the roof.

(Courtesy: Newslaundry & Abhinandan Sekhri. Founding partner of Small Screen and newslaundry, Abhinandan Sekhri was a researcher at Newstrack and went on to become a reporter, always managing to do the story that was dropped. He scripted the political satire shows The Great Indian Tamasha and Gustakhi Maaf on NDTV’s news channels between 2004 and 2009. So he thinks he’s funny. Thinks!)

Report Rape & media will plaster your mug on national television for all to see

Police, Govt & Media Gang Rape !!!

SUNAYANA SINGH

As if it’s not disturbing enough to read about a girl being gang raped by four men. As if it isn’t disgusting enough to discover that this is the second time this has happened in a year to the same girl by the same group of men; it’s a hundred times worse to see how our police, government and news channels handle such a sensitive issue that can and will destroy (if it already hasn’t) a woman’s life.

Take the recent Noida gang rape case. In a shocking display of complete lack of empathy towards the victim or any respect for the law, the police actually named the defendant, in what they later called a ‘clerical’ error. So not only has she suffered twice at the hands of rapists, now thanks to this ‘clerical’ error (for which no head has rolled), her name, address and probably school and whereabouts are common knowledge – for the wholemohalla to know, talk, discuss and snigger about. All this after finally having the guts to come out and file a complaint against the accused. And let’s get real. We all know what our society thinks of rape victims.

Later – more shocking news. Once again an alleged rape victim was made to suffer.  When asked about the gang rape of a woman on a train in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee claimed the victim fabricated the story. So much for any empathy from the government, and that too from a woman Chief Minister! Has Ms. Banerjee gone and met the victim, or is she just trying to deny that any such thing happened on a train in herstate? Must be a Left conspiracy! This isn’t the first time Ms. Banerjee has called a rape victim a liar. On February 17th, 2012 the Kolkata police claimed that there were ‘technical discrepancies’ in the rape complaint filed by anAnglo-Indian woman; a state minister questioned the morality of the woman and alleged that the complaint was fabricated to extort money; and our great Chief Minister called her rape story “cooked up” and asked “where is the evidence?” What evidence would satisfy her? A recording perhaps… West Bengal is clearly the place all rapists should head, since no one believes the victims. At least no one in the current government.

And then. The unkindest cut of all – comes the Times Now report on this rape – with the anchor’s voice going on and on hysterically building up the supposed suspense, with shots of Mamta Banerjee in a loop, along with the interview of the rape victim with her identity concealed. Just how was her identity concealed? By putting a thin, black band that barely covered her eyes (forget about her face), and then putting her entire byte on TV in a loop, while leaving her face and shoulders exposed.

Is there no law to regulate how the rights and the dignity of rape victims can be protected on news channels?  I mean forget about the police and the politicians. We (unfortunately) can’t really expect anything different from them. But a national news channel like Times Now? Do they have no sense? Do they really think that putting that little band on a rape victims eyes is good enough to mask her identity and protect her from the certain backlash that exposing her will have? Shouldn’t the news media know better?

According to the Norms of Journalistic Conduct as defined by the Press Council of India – “While reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.” Is anyone following these rules? And who is enforcing them? You can file a complaint with the Press Council, but how long it will take to get justice, if any, is anybody’s guess. Besides, by then the damage is done.

According to the BBC guidelines “All victims of rape and other sex crimes, including children, are automatically guaranteed anonymity for life from the moment they make a complaint that they are the victim of a sex crime…These restrictions only apply to identifying the person as being the victim of an alleged sexual offence. They do not prevent the identification of the person in other contexts… Victims can be identified if they agree to it. The consent should be in writing and must not be the result of any pressure.” I have so far failed to find any such guidelines in the website of any Indian news channels.

Switching through other channels, at least NDTV had the sense to blur her face, even though the overall look and hairstyle was fairly evident.

Then comes Headlines Today (Pt4). Initially they did blur her face, but suddenly in the middle of the story they show the bottom half of her face without blurring! Why? Was it necessary? No, but they did it anyway. Just for some variety. Un-fuckin-believable!

Which again brings me to the real question. Why can’t they just darken the whole shot so that absolutely nothing can be seen, and only her voice heard? Are they catering to the voyeur in the audience who may be getting off on seeing a woman who’s been violated? Do we as the intended audience really want to see this? I don’t think so. I think we’re better than that and don’t need any such visuals. What we do want is for the media to deal with rape in a sensitive way. I really couldn’t bear to watch anymore, but I seriously think we need a law for this.

In the meanwhile there are three lessons all potential rape victims can learn from this episode.

1)    Don’t report the rape because the police will tell everyone who you are.

2)    Don’t report the rape unless you want to be called a liar.

3)    Don’t report the rape because the media will plaster your mug on national television for all to see. With a slim black band of course.

(Courtesy: Sunayana Singh & Newslaundry. Sunayana wandered into journalism by accident. Reported for Newstrack and loved it. Later made documentaries and worked on short films. Gave birth to two kids and is raising them. Consulted for children’s TV channel POGO for 5 years. Had too much of kids screaming, yelling and fighting in life so decided to move into a quieter, more mature zone – TV News critique. Don’t snigger.)