Sunday, 31 January 2010

अपयश आलं म्हणून, मरायचं नाही मला

विद्यार्थ्यांच्या आत्महत्यांच्या बातम्या रोज वाचून अस्वस्थता येत असतानाच तरुणांमध्ये सकारात्मक प्रेरणाही आहेत असे आश्वासक दृश्यही पाहायला मिळते आहे. औरंगाबाद शहरातील अनेक शाळांमध्ये शारदा मंदिर शाळेतील शिक्षिका श्रीमती वीणा पवार यांनी लिहिलेली ही कविता मोठया फलकावर प्रिंट करून लावलेली दिसली. शिव योद्धा या युवक संघटनेने प्रजासत्ताक दिनी हे फलक लावले तेव्हा शेकडो विद्यार्थ्यांनी स्वयंप्रेरणेने त्या खाली सह्या करून आपली अनुमती दर्शविली. ती ही कविता:

अपयश आलं म्हणून, मरायचं नाही मला
मी आहे ज्ञानार्थी, परीक्षार्थी नाही
तणावातले जीणं मला मान्य नाही

मी आहे कासव, ससा कासवाच्या गोष्टीतला
अपयश आलं म्हणून, मरायचं नाही मला

काळ्या ढगांनी झाकलं, म्हणून सूर्य का कधी खचतो?
ग्रहणाच्या भीतीने का कधी आकाश सोडून पळतो?

आई-बाबा! माझंही एक स्वप्न आहे, माणूस म्हणून जगायचं
तुमचं नाव राखायचं, खूप खूप मोठं व्हायचं

तुम्ही हिम्मत दिली तर, आयुष्याचं करीन सोनं
पाठीवर हात ठेवून धीर द्या, एवढंच माझं मागणं


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Editors Guild of India on ‘The Paid News of India’

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the Editors’ Guild of India on Wednesday, 23 December 2009, on the issue of “paid-for news”:

The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked and seriously concerned at the increasing number of reports detailing the pernicious practice of publishing “paid news’” by some newspapers and television channels, especially during recent elections.
The Guild, at its annual general meeting held on 22 December 2009 has strongly condemned this practice which whittles the foundations of Indian journalism and calls upon all editors in the country to desist from publishing any form of advertisement which masquerade as news.
The Guild noted that it had always stood for publication of news which is in public interest; news which has been gathered due to the professional efforts of journalists; and news which is not influenced by malice, bias, favouritism or monetary influence.
The Guild recognises that news media in print and electronic form, has a genuine right to publish and broadcast advertisements on all issues, subject to the voluntary Advertising Standards Council code and the News Broadcasting Standards Code.
It is imperative that news organisations have to clearly distinguish between news and advertisements with full and proper disclosure norms, so that no reader and viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news.
It is disturbing that this “paid news” practice is also being used by companies, organisations and individuals, apart from political parties.
The Guild further deplores the practice of “private treaties” where news organisations accept free equity in unlisted companies in lieu of promoting these companies through news columns and television news programmes. The news organisations should disclose their commercial and equity interests in such companies to the readers and viewers in a transparent manner.
The Guild decries the unsavoury and unacceptable practice of some political parties and candidates offering payment for “news packages” to news media and its representatives to publish and telecast eulogising and misleading news reports on the political parties.
Both the media organisations and editors who indulge in it, and the customers who offer payment for such “paid news” are guilty of undermining the free and fair press, for which every citizen of India is entitled to.
Such irresponsible acts by a few media organisations and journalists is discrediting the entire media of the country, which has a glorious tradition of safeguarding democratic rights and exposing all kinds of injustices and inequities.
Editors and journalists have been at the vanguard of the movement for creation of a just society, both during the days of colonial rule and Independent India. The ugly phenomenon of “paid news” will be a blot on the country’s democratic fabric.

The Guild calls upon publishers, editors and journalists of media organisations to unitedly fight this creeping menace of commercialisation and bartering of self respect of the media. During the coming months, the Guild will join hands with other media organisations to sensitize the media and civil society, including political parties and the Election Commission, on the need to eliminate this unacceptable practice.
The Guild will be shortly unveiling an initiative to encourage transparency regarding “paid news” and “private treaties.” We appeal to all stakeholders to join us in pushing for a clean, transparent media.
Rajdeep Sardesai, president of the guild, announced the formation of an ethics committee headed by T.N. Ninan, editor in chief, Business Standard. The members are B G Varghese, editor & columnist; Sumit Chakravartty, editor, Mainstream, and Madhu Kishwar, editor, Manushi.

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’


Some editors have fallen prey to bloated salaries and perks: B G Verghese

Managers have increasingly taken over from editors, some of whom have fallen prey to bloated salaries and perks.

As the year closes, one must with sadness and shame pen a lament for the Indian media. India is rightly proud of its vibrant democracy despite shortcomings and flaws. Among the instrumentalities of our free society is the media, which has seen exponential growth in both the print and electronic segments with a huge and burgeoning viewership and readership in all regions and languages.
The communications revolution has given the media an instant and global reach and, with convergence, a multi-dimensional capability. It has grown in range and sophistication and is now immensely powerful and even feared not only by the public but by the organs of state. It was always true, but today information truly is power. This carries with it a corresponding responsibility imbued with a sense of trusteeship in providing the people with the kind of information needed for democratic participation, empowerment and informed choice.
It is in this regard that we must lament a disgraceful fall in standards as revealed by well documented stories of the sale of electoral coverage by sections of the news media through ‘packages’ relating to the kind of treatment sought. What earlier seemed an isolated, low-level viral outbreak appears to have gained virulence and epidemic proportions. Alarm bells have sounded. One respected editor of a leading Hindi daily recently resigned on this score while another Urdu editor who contested the elections was also asked to pay for coverage, although on concessional terms after he protested that he was himself a journalist.
A complaint was lodged with the Press Council some months ago by the late Prabhash Joshi and others and the matter is now being investigated by it. Meanwhile, new evidence has come to light from the just-concluded Maharashtra polls. Chief minister Ashok Chavan was found to have shown no more than Rs 10,000 for media advertisements in his election returns though pages and pages of advertising had appeared in his favour which in aggregate in value could even be in excess of the total permissible electoral expenditure for an Assembly seat. Not content with this, he publicly awarded substantial monetary prizes to each of the three polling stations that gave him the highest votes. What is this if not an ex post facto electoral inducement and an act of dubious morality if not an outright electoral malpractice. Who paid, Chavan or the exchequer? If the former then this must be added to his election expenditure which could inflate his returns above the prescribed ceiling. Some one has filed an election petition on Chavan’s election expenses and the case will be watched with interest. Technically, he may plead that the advertisements were, unknown to him, placed by ‘friends’. None will be taken in by such subterfuge and the papers must be asked to disclose who paid the bills.
The rot set in with economic reforms and deregulation which led to a rapid expansion of economic activity with new ventures, M&As, rising stock values and corresponding public relations spending. Business reporters were baited with freebies and, in turn, started demanding or assuming favours, something governments had long done with housing plots and so on.

The Editor’s Guild prescribed a code to curb business sops. But then managements entered the lists and ‘advertorials’ crept in obliterating the distinction between news and ads. This was followed by ‘private treaties’ in which advertising was bartered for company shares to mutual benefit with promotional news writing and sponsored news.
News was commodified and dumbed down to provide titillation, sensation, hype and sound-bytes rather than substance to catch ‘eyeballs’, enhance sales even if it meant dumping copies at vantage points, The media’s mission to provide unbiased news, outside the editorial page, yielded to the market.
News has become commerce. Managers have increasingly taken over from editors, some of whom have fallen prey to bloated salaries and perks. Many family papers have gone the same way with money overriding mission.
Honourable exceptions apart, this represents a sad decline in professional values though many journalists are acutely unhappy and embarrassed by these trends. Some of the largest papers have been the worst offenders.
The 24x7 news channels too have not been blameless. They are by nature shallow unless they take special pains to give depth to their coverage.
Some anchors have turned inquisitor, slanting discussion to preconceived views and seeking to impose their opinions on panelists. That there are some excellent programmes too only shows what we are missing. And in this scenario, the government, parliament, the media, advertisers and the entertainment world have willfully conspired to all but kill public service broadcasting and radio. The well heeled consumer has trumped the citizen who looks to the media for empowerment, access and participation in life and living.
The matter is too serious to be left to drift. Maybe the Press Registration Act needs review to entrench the position of the editor who is even now responsible for everything published, including advertisements. Can the law require public interest directors to be appointed to boards of all media houses from tiered panels to act as guardians of the public interest. The establishment of self-regulatory bodies for the broadcast media by no means precludes the necessity for mandatory broadcast regulations as found in every part of the world. This need not curb media freedom. Fast driving requires good brakes. Should ‘private (ads for shares) treaties’ be required to be mandatorily disclosed by the paper/channel concerned? Can the Election Commission compel separate accounting of all advertisements and advertorial support for candidates under election expense?
These are obviously extremely sensitive and complex matters that impinge on freedom of expression. But when freedom becomes license, democracy is in peril.