Indian scribes are compelled to pay ritual obeisance to PM’s “personal honesty and integrity”

Madhu Purnima Kishwar writes Honestly Speaking in Outlook: 

Dr Manmohan Singh cannot escape responsibility for appointing people with dubious credentials to occupy key positions of power—starting with the appointment of Pratibha Patil as the President of India.

Today, the Indian media—both print and television—is focusing on the recent corruption scandals involving the UPA Government with unusual zeal. However, I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh while dealing with the scandals emanating from his cabinet colleagues. They do so even when there is clear evidence that the Prime Minister was well aware of various shady deals, as in the case of Telecom scam, and that he did nothing to stop the brazen economic crimes indulged in by his ministerial colleagues over the last 6 years. 
…In recent weeks, some of our most respected columnists have been warning us that we should look at institutional reform rather than target individuals because it can lead to loss of faith in democratic institutions. But how do you retain faith in democratic institutions if powerful individuals use their office to systematically subvert the autonomy and credibility of institutions meant as watchdogs of democracy? The best of institutions take no time in becoming slavish instruments of partisan agendas if you plant subservient and heavily compromised individuals at their helm.

……..A PM who compromises national interest, as in Kashmir, just to indulge the personal fancy of the PM in waiting, a PM who looks the other way while his Cabinet colleagues brazenly loot public funds and get away with extorting thousands of crores by way of kickbacks, a PM who is widely perceived and lampooned as a “rubber stamp” does not merit being called “an honest man” or a “man of integrity” because integrity in his job demands putting national interest above partisan politics and personal loyalties. Integrity also involves taking full responsibility for all his acts of commission and omission which have earned UPA II the dubious distinction of being publicly named as the most corrupt and rudderless government in post independence India


Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Founding Editor, Manushi Journal, Founder, Manushi Sangathan–Citizens First Forum and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

 Read the full piece Honestly Speaking in Outlook

A viral video takes on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony

KONY 2012

Invisible Children, a U.S.-based advocacy group, staged a media coup last week with its 30-minute web video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Konyand his purported crimes against the people of this country. The video has been viewed more than 55 million times on YouTube since going live earlier last week, and #Kony 2012 continues to trend worldwide on Twitter.

The slickly produced video accuses Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army of abducting, mutilating and murdering thousands of Ugandan children who served as foot soldiers and sex slaves in the LRA’s rebel forces from the late 1980s, when the group first rose to prominence, to 2006.

After releasing the video on YouTube and Vimeo a little over a week ago, the group aggressively promoted it via its social networks. By enlisting stars like Justin Beiber and Rihanna to “Stop Kony,” the message spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook over the course of several days. Even Oprah Winfrey got involved by donating over $2 million to group via her Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

But almost as quickly as it gained supporters, the video has also attracted its fair share of detractors. In recent days, many activists, aid workers andAfricans have cried foul about the video and the group behind its production. Journalists like Michael Wilkerson argue that the video sacrifices accuracy for impact. While the video supports a simple goal — capture Kony — Wilkerson points out that this alone would not eradicate the problems facing Ugandans, who are still caught in the crosshairs of a war-torn country.

“The film sends the message that Kony is the sole source of evil in this part of the world and simply by sending in $30 for an action kit you’ve solved this problem,” says Africa expert at the Atlantic Council, J. Peter Pham, in a USA Today article.

The video also calls for U.S. military intervention, but fails to acknowledge that the U.S. has been training Ugandan forces for several years. As recent as last October, the Obama administration dispatched 100 U.S. troops to assist the Ugandan military (in an advisory capacity) in its hunt for Kony and his LRA fighters.

But supporters of Invisible Children, like former child abductee Jacob Acaye (who is also featured in the controversial video), are quick to argue that the video raises awareness of a humanitarian crisis that many in the West know little about. Acaye, now 21 and studying law in Kampala, told The Guardian earlier last week that, “Until now, the war that was going on has been a silent war.”

The Center for American Progress’ Sarah Margon also credits the group’s grassroots mobilization efforts for contributing to the passage of the 2009 LRA Disarmament and Northern Ugandan Recovery Act. This piece of legislation provided emergency aid that has been vital to rebuilding Northern Uganda.

Regardless of where you come down on Kony 2012, most media watchers agree that the video’s popularity highlights the growing power of web video and social media in shaping public opinion. It has already set newweb traffic records, and even garnered a mention from White House spokesman Jay Carney last Thursday during his daily briefing.

How a small newspaper registered its protest

Stories of newspapers running blank editorials and news columns during the censorship era of the Emergency in the mid-1970s are legion.

But in this day and age, when space is calculated in square centimetres?

Star of Mysore, the 35-year-old evening newspaper from Mysore, ran this front-page on March 3 to protest the murderous assault on journalists by lawyers in Bangalore.

A front-page editorial noted grimly:

 “The Fourth Estate is the new target.

“In the new resurgent India, the media has played its role in exposing the wrongs done to this nation by its own people and has given voice to the weak. The Press, the fourth pillar of democracy, has so far kept check on the three other powerful pillars—the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary—and has done so in the interest of keeping the citizenry of this nation informed and to get it involved in national issues.

“This success of the media in getting people involved in issues that concern the nation is what has made the other three pillars uncomfortable…. A media that helps create awareness among the citizenry making it pro-active is not in the interest of the powerful in the other three pillars of democracy. And so, on March 2, while a certain section of lawers went on a thrshing spree on media persons, the police stood like helpless bystanders.”

Image: courtesy Star of Mysore

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

When Indira Gandhi introduced media censorship as part of the Emergency in 1975, Indian newspapers ran blank editorials as a form of protest.

The Kannada newspaper Vijaya Karnataka, belonging to The Times of India group, runs a blank (and black) editorial today, in protest against what happened in the State legislative assembly on Monday, during the trust vote moved by the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

And in white type set on 60% black, editor Vishweshwar Bhatwrites this small footnote at the bottom:

“The unseemly occurrences in the assembly on Monday should make every citizen bow his head in shame. The manner in which our elected representatives behaved is unpardonable. They have dealt a deadly blow to democracy. While criticising this, we symbolically represent the silent outrage of the people in this form.”

 

 

(Courtesy: Churumuri)

Every channel is a winner in great poll race

For politicians, an election is a loaded game: there is one winner and the rest are losers. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Unless, of course, it is a hung parliament or assembly.

Not so for those in the business of capturing their victories and defeats.

All three of India’s leading English news channels are claiming that they were the channel of choice on results day, March 6, when the verdict of the elections to the five State assemblies, including Uttar Pradesh, came out.

Times Now* newspaper advertisement: “Times Now reaffirms its undisputed leadership on election counting day.” Citing TAM ratings, it claims fullday viewership of 39% (versus 23% for CNN-IBN and 22% for NDTV), and primetime (7pm to 11 pm) viewership of 48% (versus 18% for CNN-IBN and 20% for NDTV).

# CNN-IBN newspaper advertisement: “Elections = CNN-IBN & IBN7. India’s best team = India’s best results. CNN-IBN, IBN7 and The Week post-poll conducted by CSDS gets the projections right again.” On air, CNN-IBN says it was the most watched of the channels.

# NDTV 24×7 newspaper advertisment: “Who won the election without any shouting and screaming? NDTV24x7 had more viewers than all other news channels COMBINED.” Using an opinion poll by GfK-Mode in 11 cities (sample size 5,000), NDTV claims it had 51% viewership compared with CNN-IBN’s 19%, Times Now’s 15% and Headlines Today’s 10%.

* Disclosures apply

by churumuri