Honest confession by some Journalists at BiharTimes Conclave
Patna,(BiharTimes): Journalism is now no more a mission but it is done for commission. This is how eminent journalist and columnist, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, summed up a lively seminar on Corruption in Media on the second day of BiharTimes Conclave on Sunday (Dec 18, 2011).
In fact all the speakers––members of Fourth Estate or outside––who spoke before and after him took the same line. Be it at the national level or at Bihar level media has lost all its credibility. In the words of Neelabh Mishra, Editor of Outlook (Hindi), even the TV ratings are now rigged in this era of Paid News.
Thakurta regretted how the media is misusing the freedom of speech to show and write whatever they want. They are free to go to any extent and commit any crime as they are above law. Citing the example of how the TV channels showed the then Andhra Pradesh Governor, N D Tiwary’s illegal sexual act with a woman, he said the media can openly show pornography and one can do nothing. This is outrageous and the channels are not ashamed of showing this when everyone in the family, from parents to young kids, watch them.
Thakurta said that when he raised this issue before Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ambika Soni, she too expressed her helplessness in imposing any regulation as the entire media would start yelling against the government.
Thakurta said that he might not agree with the way Justice Katju talked about media yet there is no denying the fact that it needs some check and balance. It is absurd to say that there is no regulation on media in the West.
“But when we talk of regulation the people in media would scream that Emergency is about to be imposed,” he said.
Thakurta said that once a fine of 5.5 lakh dollar was imposed on a TV channel in the USA by a regulatory body for not showing a personality in appropriate way.
He explained how Bennett, Coleman & Company, the owner of Times of India, Economic Times etc, is showing the path of corruption.
He cited the example of how the Election Commission disqualified a woman UP MLA, Umesh Yadav, mother of Vikas Yadav of Nitish Katara murder case, for three years. This is the first such instance in which the Election Commission took such a stern step. The MLA did not show the money spent on Paid News in Amar Ujala and Jagaran.
He regretted how Congress spokesman, Abhishek Manu Sanghvi, is representing former Maharashtra chief minister, Ashok Chavan, as a lawyer in the Supreme Court.
He said there are 72,000 registered newspapers in India, but only 120 of them consume 70 per cent of paper. There are 700 TV channels, half of them are news channels. Many of them are showing some strange things in the name of news.
He cited the example of how 160-odd years old newspaper, News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch, had to be closed down when it indulged in an illegal act.
Neelabh, on his part said, said that there was no special regulation to shut down News of the World. Only the existing law was implemented. He also asked as to how media would be made more accountable.
Thakurta said that media is watchdog, rather it should be called lapdog. He, however, said he is hopeful as there is no scope to fall further low from this point.
Dr Ajay Kumar, former President of the Indian Medical Association, also said that there is scope for robust optimism, but hastened to add jokingly that the media does not even deserved to be compared with any type of dog.
He asked the organizers that the theme of the two-day BiharTimes Conclave should be
“Shifting Paradigms of Media-Managed Development in Bihar.”
Making a scathing attack he asked as to why not a single newspaper reported a line of what he said on the first day of the Conclave. “Is this because I was critical of the state government.”
He asked as to why Aku Srivastava, Executive Editor of Hindustan, (Patna) did not turn up in today’s discussion when Thakurta could reach Delhi airport at 5:30 AM to catch flight to Patna.
Like Thakurta and Dr Ajay Kumar, Patna University’s Prof Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, too lambasted the media, especially the Times of India. He asked as to why the media is silent and not highlighting any issue whatsoever. If BiharTimes can have courage to take on none else but Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on the issue of Nalanda International University why not other media do the same. He said that if international media can come to Patna and ask him about the true fact of the growth rate story what prevented the local media from doing so. Again it was BiharTimes which did some very good story on the real growth rate in Bihar and not what the state government is propagating.
N R Mohanty, Director, Jagaran Institute of Mass Communication and former Resident Editor, Hindustan Times, Patna, said that there is a general perception in Bihar that Nitish Kumar is the de facto editor of all the newspapers getting published from Bihar.
Mukesh Kumar, Channel Head, News Express said that 40-42 per cent of content in news are sponsored. If oil adulteration is a crime so is the adulteration of news.
Pravin Bagi of Mahua News raised the issue of exploitation of stringers by the media houses. He hit out at the behaviour of media in Bihar and went on to declare that Nitish Kumar would soon reach his Waterloo as did Lalu Yadav.
Saroj Singh of Chauthi Duniya asked as to why the media in Bihar got sold in just Rs 28 crore advertisement. Is there something else?
K K Singh, Retired Chief Reporter of the Patna edition of the Times of India, said that journalists are poor wage-earners. In fact media houses are corrupt and encouraging corruption. He agreed with Mohanty in saying that there is Press censorship in Bihar. Of course a few regional Hindi channels are doing some good work. Often journalists are being thrown out of job on the express order of the chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Shiv Prasad Rai narrated his harrowing experience as an RTI activist. He said how the district magistrate of Buxar, Vishundev Prasad Singh, threw him into jail because he asked information on the rampant corruption and loot in the fund meant for farmers.
“A case of extortion of Rs 25,000 was lodged against me by none else but the district magistrate and I was kept in jail for 29 days,” he said.
Only a few days back deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi rang me up to charge that “I am not allowing the administration to work.”
He said how Ram Vilas Singh, an RTI activist of Lakhisarai was killed on December 8 last at the behest of the SP. He said he would launch a stir to demand CBI probe into his killing.
Ganga Prasad of Jansatta raised the issue of 155 days long strike by the retrenched employees of the Times of India. “When we raised the issue before the chief minister he said that he had not even heard about it. The fact is that he knows every thing.”
Ujjwal of I-Next, narrated how chief minister Nitish Kumar humiliated him in a Press Conference when he raised a question on perennial traffic jam on Mahatma Gandhi Setu.