Shekhar Gupta should be “more tolerant about what was written and drawn about them”

Aakar Patel, a director of Hill Road Media & a former newspaper editor, having worked with the Bhaskar Group and Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. writes in his column titled ‘Why Shekhar Gupta is right to be angry, but wrong to sue’ in Firstpost:

My friend Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of Indian Express wants Rs 100 crore from another editor-in-chief, Outlook’s Vinod Mehta.

Gupta claims he was defamed by Mehta, who said in an interview to Open magazine that an Express report published earlier this year was “the mother of all mistakes” and specifically written to damage India’s army chief VK Singh. This is the background to Vinod Mehta’s comments.

The report carried Gupta’s own byline, which was unusual. It claimed the Indian government was “spooked” when it learnt on 16 January that certain army units were moving towards Delhi on the same night as the Supreme Court was hearing a petition by the army chief on his age.

….But this was brushed off and the Indian Express was attacked as being irresponsible. I don’t think that charge is true, and I rate the Express under Gupta as one of India’s three best newspapers.

….What puzzles me is why he is also suing the magazine which carried Vinod Mehta’s interview. There a reporter and editor did their job fairly and accurately. The reporter Hartosh Singh Bal doesn’t egg Mehta on, he is balanced and questions whether it’s fair to say what he does.

Also, quite funnily, Gupta sent his legal notice in the same week his newspaper lectured parliamentarians on being more tolerant about what was written and drawn about them.

I think Gupta was hurt by the collective accusation against him and his paper and reacted angrily to Mehta’s comments, which I accept were unfair and extreme.

I hope Gupta takes no further action on the notice and does what he excels at: editing India’s only reporter-run newspaper.

Read the full column: ‘Why Shekhar Gupta is right to be angry, but wrong to sue’ in Firstpost

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Kannada people vs the Kannada film lobby??

The Kannada media industry now wants no movies/shows to be dubbed in Kannada. There are statements and articles by Kannada media personalities protesting against dubbed movies and even TV shows like Aamir Khan‘s Satyameva Jayate. They claim that dubbed movies/shows will eat into their market and strangle the Kannada industry.

It is very easy to raise popular support by claiming it is for the good of Kannada. I’d like to analyse whether such a move would actually benefit the Kannada people or just the pockets of the Kannada film lobby.
The Kannada Film industry through its lobbying over the years enjoys several protectionist measures including subsidies, 100% tax concession, restrictions on the way other language movies release in Karnataka, etc. It is almost an universal law that protected industries always tend to lag in quality, technology and innovation.
Even a Kannada fanatic would be hard pressed to say that better quality movies/entertainment have been produced because of these protectionist regulations. Kannada movies have long stopped entertaining the discerning audience and remain the staple for those cannot access other forms of entertainment. Even an occasional well made movie finds it tough to attract the former due to the morass of bad quality movies it is hidden amongst [every one of them taking a chunk of out of the tax money, mind you].
It shows the declining quality of Kannada movies/shows if people will prefer watching badly lip synced dub versions of other language films and shows. And why should the people of Karnataka not have the option to do so. It is in their interests and rights to gain access to more and better entertainment which their own media industry has failed to satisfy and is always trying to smother.
These protectionist measures supported by a few media gimmicks, goonda tactics against those do not agree and political connections serve only to protect the pockets and interests of the rich dudes who run the industry. They neither benefit the Kannada culture nor the Kannada people. Talibanisation does not benefit anybody except those who preach it.
Deregulating the industry will force the industry players to change and face open competition. Some will go bust but at the same time it will open doors for new players who have the what the audience enjoys.
The release restrictions are being stayed in courts and a recent Supreme Court judgement regarding AP might end the regime of tax concessions. In this age of increasing awareness and increased channels of media consumption, the out-dated barons of the industry face a downward path and are trying to prolong their exit. It is they who are strangling the Kannada media industry. What remains to be seen is, if the Kannada people continue to allow this by actively/passively supporting such short sighted measures and allow the Kannada media industry to roll into the valley of irrelevance. (courtesy: Ajey)

The Hoot & News Laundry : Media Reformists

Media is like a weapon, which if used strategically, can prove to be an asset but, if it falls into the wrong hands, can, in no time turn itself into a cause of mass destruction. In India, media has become one of the most powerful sectors of an industry operating in every possible available stream. Be it politics, economy, Bollywood, a small village or a metropolitan city, media is everywhere. When a common man watches a news channel or reads a newspaper, he is more likely to believe what he sees and reads instead of brooding on the very minute possibility that he may not trust the news. With such a power to influence people of a country, in a way which no other office or authority can do, comes the responsibility of handling such power sensibly by being unbiased while reporting and being exact and truthful. But today, with the commercialisation of media, anchors or journalists behave like judges of Supreme Court and adjudicate debates between famous personalities, putting words into their mouth and creating sensational news, running after the TRPs, not to forget the paid news, and the worst, their behaviour like loyal pets to political parties.

Indian democracy stands on the principle of checks and balances, thus no system or branch should be left untouched. When such immense power is given to media, there has to be proper scrutiny on their activities. With these challenges coming up, some of the responsible journalists and media persons have taken the broom in their hands to clean up the mess before it worsens to an extent that is irreparable. They call themselves media reformists. Following is the insight into two of the most prominent media reformist sites in India.

The Hoot

This website was created in March 2001, with an aim of scrutinising the working of all the possible branches of media. Be it print or electronic media, none is spared from the grilling. This website was launched by the Media Foundation, whose origin can be traced back to 1979. The sole objective of this media foundation was to protect, promote, and encourage all kinds of media. The belief, that by encouraging media, they can protect the freedom of speech and improve the quality of life motivated them to work with dedication for the betterment of media. The Hoot believes that the media in the subcontinent criticises everyone except themselves. This website has evolved out of the concerns of few practicing rational journalists about the recent alarming trends of media. Its structure has been formulated in a way to inspect the issues of precision, censorship, fairness, rights and responsibilities of the media. It was set up under the cost of Rs 2, 00,000 with a business plan to employ 200 journalists paying them Rs 100 per month. The Hoot had its share of ups and down, and in its second year, despite a strong readership, it faced problem in raising funds, since most media or business houses would be reluctant in associating themselves with something which criticises the mainstream media. The Hoot even went off air for two weeks. But now it has come a long way and generates its funds mainly from advertisements.

This website has a structure with different sections ranging from “media watch” (which watches all the actions of every existing news channels and newspapers in the country and criticises them for any misdeed), to media and conflict, ethics, etc. It has a separate section for film, tv and radio. Basically it is designed in a way such that no section of media is left untouched.

courtesy: Nupur Dogra & Youth Ki Awaaz

News Laundry

This website is different from “The Hoot” in a way that it is a bit satirical in nature and more fun to read, while the soul reason for its existence remains the same “turning mirror on one self”. The admins of this site are Madhu Trehan, Abhinandan Sekhri, Prashant Sareen, all of whom are experienced journalists and Roopak Kumar acts as the business head. Their tag line “sabki dhulai hogi” is self defining in nature. They work to ensure that none will be spared. They want to make a difference to the media while having fun along the way. This approach has been appreciated by many as it is not at all monotonous. Innovative names for various columns such as the working desk being called the “dhobi ghaat”, makes reading fun. Articles, cartoons etc are very attractive and at the same time does the job accurately. They not only criticise but also appreciate good work by journalists. This website is still fresh and new and has a long way to go.

In the times when journalism has turned into a business, such organisations are an asset to our country. Such sites are perfect personification of the thought “charity begins at home”; like others in the field, these people also could have given in to the demons of the industry, but they didn’t. They knew and owned the responsibility they had towards the society as journalists.

India – Charming state of affairs

Hot-headed democracy?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction.

Talking Media | Sevanti Ninan

If you ask whether social media is a boon or bane you should also ask whether the judiciary is a boon or otherwise, and ditto for the democratic governments we elect. For increasingly they all have their zany moments. And that is a kind word.

We’ve become such a reactive polity that our daily conduct will soon be hemmed in by injunctions issued by one or the other of these estates. All of them are on a short fuse.

If a Dalit poet and activist writes on social media about a beef-eating festival in Hyderabad, she encounters a chilling barrage of hate mail on the same trendy Twitter that the chattering classes are addicted to. Including a tweet which suggests she be raped on live television. A blogger called Kevin Gil Martin has described Twitter as lazy mob justice—an apt description of something which is more and more in evidence.

Then a video allegedly featuring Congress politician Abhishek Manu Singhvi goes viral and while Twitter reacts with glee, the always-dying-to-react Press Council chairman suggests restrictions on social media.

A newspaper goes overboard and fantasizes on its entire page 1 about troop movements, and the intent behind them. Six days later the Allahabad high court responds to a public interest litigation by directing the centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that there is no reporting on the movement of troops by the print or electronic media. A blanket ban, just like that?

Mamata Banerjee is determined to immortalize herself in social media’s rogues gallery by acting like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Metaphorically, it is off with their heads for anyone who makes fun of the chief minister, and a neat blow to their circulation for newspapers that do not play ball. Cyberspace responds as it’s wont to, and in vigorously waving the free speech flag prefers to ignore the more conventional skulduggery behind the cartoon-forwarding-professor coming to grief.

courtesy: livemint.com

Surely what also needs to be exposed along with Mamata’s reactive behaviour is Trinamool’s politicking-for-spoils culture that may be spreading in the state.

The ministry of information and broadcasting is amazing. Unable to get broadcasting regulation passed for a decade and a half, it resorts to malleable guidelines. Either you have a firm policy on what can be telecast in terms of adult fare, and when, or you don’t. Is this now going to be decided on a movie-by-movie basis, as happened last weekend with the Sony telecast of The Dirty Picture?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction. What happened to due process?

The Supreme Court is also attempting to curb runaway legal reporting. The difference is that it has initiated deliberations, which is as it should be. The purview of its deliberations to frame guidelines for how the media should report sub judice matters has arisen from an issue of allegedly leaked privileged communication between the counsel of Sahara Real Estate Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

The court initiated a debate on the framing of guidelines for reporting of criminal trials to guard against any violation of Article 21 that guarantees the right of an accused to reputation and dignity and to ensure that his trial does not get prejudiced.

Then on 4 April, the court also ordered the inclusion of four more media guideline-related petitions. The issues raised in these petitions include norms for news coverage in electronic media, norms and guidelines to minimize presentation of sexual abuse and violence on TV channels, and contempt proceedings against journalists for publishing confessional statements of the accused before police.

The 2011 petition by Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), which is one of the four the Supreme Court will take up, is also a response to the ad hoc manner in which police releases to the media material that can tarnish reputations.

Several journalists and media associations will be able to intervene in this judicial process of determining norms. That is how it should be. And where social media is concerned, too, that is how it should have been, before Markandey Katju (Press Council chairman) and Kapil Sibal (human resource development minister) chose to make pre-emptive statements.

But because nobody waits to give a measured response before they go their reactive way, all we will end up with is arbitrary curbs decreed by the government and implemented by service providers. Accompanied doubtless by an extended flurry of cyber abuse. As the current campaign seeking annulment of restrictive IT rules shows, undoing arbitrariness is going to take a lot of doing.

The poet Frances Trollope coined an evocative phrase with reference to Thomas Jefferson, referring to his “hot-headed democracy” which he said had done “a fearful injury” to his country. Who embodies it most here, I wonder: abusive free speech champions, the West Bengal chief minister, parliamentarians and the judiciary railing against the messenger rather than the bad news, or our hyperventilating TV anchors?

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch website thehoot.org. She examines the larger issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

‘Court banned Singhvi clip for media, not for common man’

THE BSKS ACTIVIST SAYS PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO SEE THE SEX VIDEO

YOU HAVE seen Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga earlier on TV, when he manhandled the Supreme Court lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhusan last year in his chamber. Bagga is at it again. This time he has uploaded Abhishek Manu Singhvi‘s sex CD on a social networking site. ‘If sex CDs and clippings of N D Tiwari, Swami Nityanand and porn viewings of Karnataka MLAs can be aired by the media and uploaded on social networking sites, what is so different with this particular sex CD?’ he asks. In an exclusive interview with Siddheshwar Shukla, Millenium Post he says:

 that he has every right to upload the clipping and people have the right to the ‘naked truth’.

Excerpts: The sex CD/clippings of Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi is on a social networking site with your photograph. Is it your profile? Have you uploaded the clippings?

Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga: Yes, I have uploaded the clippings on the social networking site Twitvid. 

How did you obtain the clipping?

It was uploaded on YouTube for a short while at around 9 pm on Thursday. I knew it will be deactivated, so I started downloading it immediately. It was deactivated in less than 10 minutes, but by then I had downloaded it on my PC. The clippings were uploaded by several members on YouTube but deactivated soon after. So, I decided to upload it on a new social networking site. 

The court has put an injunction. Don’t you think it’s a violation of the court order?

I think I am well within my rights to upload the clippings. I have neither violated the court order nor engaged in any anti-national activity. The court has banned it for the media, not for the common man to view it. Also, hundreds of anti-India clippings containing anti-national slogans, terrorist activities, anti- national campaigns are on the you tube, but the government is not concerned about it. So why so much hue and cry on this sex CD? In my opinion, it should be left on the people to decide what is wrong and what is right? 

What if court takes action against you?

I will put my view before the court. I am ready to face whatever action the court or any authority takes against me. But why is the Congress party hell bent to ban the CD and clippings. If sex CDs of N D Tiwari, Swami Nityanand and porn viewings of Karnataka MLAs can be aired by media and uploaded on television channels, why not this CD ? Why does the Congress want to bury the truth? The party which was instrumental in other sex clippings cases has suddenly become shy to talk about the sex CD of Singhvi. The truth must come before the people. 

How do you see the entire episode of Singhvi’s sex CD?

It’s a shame for our country. A person sitting on such crucial position is engaged in such sleazy acts, that too in his office. The response of the Congress party is equally shameful, in stead of taking action they are defending Singhvi and asking him to go in hiding for some time. It’s the same party that has taken action against N D Tiwari sex CD case and was very instrumental in demanding action against Swami Nityanand and porn viewings of Karnataka MLAs in the assembly. The ban on CD is actually a gag order on the media. 

Don’t you think your life could be in danger?

I am not afraid of anybody. I do what I think is right. I have done nothing wrong. The clippings reveal what Singhvi had done. If he is in the right, he must come forward to face the public. Ban is not a solution. If he is wrong he must step down. Such people don’t have right to hold public posts. They can’t be role model for youth, neither guide the nation. I will keep on exposing such persons and highlighting issues in days to come.

‘tarikh pe tarikh’..Is it that difficult to disagree with the Supreme Court or its judgement?

Karnataka steelmakers as SC adjourns case, again for the 13th time !!

And this is what I want to ask today. Is it wrong to disagree with the Supreme Court in India? Why is it that disagreeing with a SC order or the way its proceedings are held, in a specific case or in general, are taken as a contempt of the judiciary in India? Also, the demons of ‘contempt of court’ if we say anything against the court or its order, has to be taken out. Else, we are not free.

March 30 was a regular day in the Supreme Court of India with many cases heard and many deferred. One of the cases was of the steel-makers in Karnataka crying for iron ore supply in order to sustain steel production. On that day, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearing of the iron ore mining case for the 13th time.

Out of the 27 times that the case was listed in the Supreme Court, the hearing has been deferred 13 times. Means nearly every second hearing was deferred/adjourned or whatever legal jargon you want to give. (PS: Dear Supreme Court, I am in complete knowledge of your guidelines for court reporters and let me assure you that I am not a court reporter).

Out of these 13 adjournments, five have happened consecutively since February 24, the latest one being the one on March 30. On March 16, the hearing was adjourned as one of the judges wasn’t available and March 23 hearing was adjourned because the CEC panel failed to submit its report to the SC bench.  The Supreme Court, in a notice on its website on March 14, said,

“Due to non-availability of Honourable Mr Justice Aftab Alam for hearing forest bench matters, special bench comprising of Honourable The Chief Justice, Honourable Mr Justice Aftab Alam and Honourable Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar for hearing the matter will not sit on Friday, the 16 March 2012.”

This case is a matter of national importance and the stakes are high. And even though nearly half of the scheduled hearings getting cancelled due to one reason or the other, companies/stakeholders/everyone who is affected by this, are keeping their mouth shut fearing a showdown by the SC. The companies are silent. They are scared that whatever they may say will be taken against them by the SC.

So, is it that even the SC, the guardian of citizens’ rights in this country doesn’t tolerate freedom of expression/speech even when its done keeping in mind all the clauses of the constitution? Is it that difficult to disagree with the Supreme Court or its judgement?

The steel industry in Karnataka is again staring at a near shut down situation because of these delays. Steel-makers say that the CEC, in its report to the SC, recommended category ‘A’ mines to function as no illegalities were found there. ” All we are asking the SC to consider this recommendation as soon as possible so that the steel production can carry on,” they say.

So, I ask the question again. Till when are we going to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the stark realities that face us? The argument that Indian courts are over-worked with millions of cases pending, is valid. But, such cases where the future of our economic development depends, can’t be left to such frequent adjournments.

Currently, with no solution in sight, only a “few” months iron ore supplies are left in the state. Over half of the sponge iron makers in Karnataka have already drawn shutters and rest are bleeding money profusely in the hope of a judgement. The mega steel plants in the state, too, are slowly cutting production. The total steel capacity in Karnataka is 16 million tonne, of that 3 million tonne is sponge iron. Most of this sponge iron production has been shut down and steel plants are running at low capacities.

(courtesy: BlogAdda & A Day In My Life)


Misogyny in narratives of rape in Indian media

SONAL MAKHIJA

A newspaper report on the recent Gurgaon rape case concludes with the correspondent informing the readers that the victim was hired to “engage with male customers”. How is this piece of information relevant to the public at large? What does it really tell us about the crime? What it does, vaguely though, is describe the victim’s job. Is that relevant to the crime? Not really.

The reporting on the rape cases of the last few weeks has once again highlighted the Indian media’s failure to take into account some critical precautions while covering cases of sexual assault against women. Most crime reporters use the police as sources of information. The police often share a comfortable rapport with journalists who periodically seek them out for news. In private conversations, they possibly divulge more information than necessary. In an interview that I conducted last year with a few senior crime reporters, one senior law correspondent of an English daily admitted, that a good journalist always has more information than a copy needs. It is up to journalists to exercise their discretion, and leave out details that won’t necessarily benefit the story, the reporter added. Sure, the police should not be sharing intimate details of victims. Nevertheless, the media is obligated while reporting cases of sexual assault, to shield the identity of rape victims.

Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prohibits the disclosure, not only of the victim’s name, but also of facts that could lead to the identification of the victim, such as the place of residence, identifying or naming the victim’s family or friends, university, or work details.

The Press Council of India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct (“the PCI norms”) warn journalists not to give excessive publicity to victims, witnesses, suspects, and accused. The paramount concern in addition to the protection of victims is that, in publishing intimate details of their lives, the media exposes them to unwarranted public scrutiny. This safeguard protects the accused as well. Much of that information fails to add any value, unless it serves a genuine overriding public interest. Such information often obliquely encourages questions about the victim’s character and panders to unhealthy public curiosity. In the T.I.S.S. rape case for instance, the media published details from the victim’s written statement to the police. That information did not serve any public interest.

So, how do the personal details of a victim’s marital status, like in the Gurgaon or Calcutta rape cases, add value to the story? How is it relevant to the crime? The Supreme Court in State of Karnataka v. Puttaraja, warned against the disclosure of the rape victim’s identity even in the printing or publication of judgments issued by the High Courts or the Supreme Court. The Court observed that, “social victimization or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which Section 228-A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this Court, High Court or lower Court, the name of the victim should not be indicated.” Further, the PCI norms prohibit the visual representation or photograph of not just the victim, but also her family or relatives to avoid identification.

Beyond the question of naming victims, the recent media rape narratives also follow a familiar trajectory. The key terms, “married woman”, “unaccompanied in a pub”, and “late at night” come together to the conclusion, “raped”. What does the media narrative of married women alone in pubs at night insinuate? It suggests that the woman was reckless or foolish to be out on her own that late. There is a chauvinist undercurrent in that detail. It invites the response — what was a married woman doing in a bar alone at night? Why was she there?

It offers little insight into the reasons for the crime. Such rape coverage in the media promotes curiosity and interest in the victim’s life. It does not add to our understanding of rape or why it takes place. Instead, it feeds the propagation of the dominant misogynist view, that women of a “certain type” deserved to be raped.

***

This article was previously published at mylaw.net.