THE HIMALAYAN TALK: INDIAN GOVERNMENT FOOD SECURITY PROGRAM RISKIER

http://youtu.be/NrcmNEjaN8c The government of India has announced food security program ahead of elections in 2014. We discussed the issue with Palash Biswas in Kolkata today. http://youtu.be/NrcmNEjaN8c Ahead of Elections, India's Cabinet Approves Food Security Program ______________________________________________________ By JIM YARDLEY http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/indias-cabinet-passes-food-security-law/

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS CRITICAL OF BAMCEF LEADERSHIP

[Palash Biswas, one of the BAMCEF leaders and editors for Indian Express spoke to us from Kolkata today and criticized BAMCEF leadership in New Delhi, which according to him, is messing up with Nepalese indigenous peoples also. He also flayed MP Jay Narayan Prasad Nishad, who recently offered a Puja in his New Delhi home for Narendra Modi's victory in 2014.]

THE HIMALAYAN DISASTER: TRANSNATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT MECHANISM A MUST

We talked with Palash Biswas, an editor for Indian Express in Kolkata today also. He urged that there must a transnational disaster management mechanism to avert such scale disaster in the Himalayas. http://youtu.be/7IzWUpRECJM

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS LASHES OUT KATHMANDU INT'L 'MULVASI' CONFERENCE

अहिले भर्खर कोलकता भारतमा हामीले पलाश विश्वाससंग काठमाडौँमा आज भै रहेको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मूलवासी सम्मेलनको बारेमा कुराकानी गर्यौ । उहाले भन्नु भयो सो सम्मेलन 'नेपालको आदिवासी जनजातिहरुको आन्दोलनलाई कम्जोर बनाउने षडयन्त्र हो।' http://youtu.be/j8GXlmSBbbk

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS LASHES OUT KATHMANDU INT'L 'MULVASI' CONFERENCE

अहिले भर्खर कोलकता भारतमा हामीले पलाश विश्वाससंग काठमाडौँमा आज भै रहेको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मूलवासी सम्मेलनको बारेमा कुराकानी गर्यौ । उहाले भन्नु भयो सो सम्मेलन 'नेपालको आदिवासी जनजातिहरुको आन्दोलनलाई कम्जोर बनाउने षडयन्त्र हो।' http://youtu.be/j8GXlmSBbbk

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS BLASTS INDIANS THAT CLAIM BUDDHA WAS BORN IN INDIA

THE HIMALAYAN VOICE: PALASH BISWAS DISCUSSES RAM MANDIR

Published on 10 Apr 2013 Palash Biswas spoke to us from Kolkota and shared his views on Visho Hindu Parashid's programme from tomorrow ( April 11, 2013) to build Ram Mandir in disputed Ayodhya. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77cZuBunAGk

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALSH BISWAS FLAYS SOUTH ASIAN GOVERNM

Palash Biswas, lashed out those 1% people in the government in New Delhi for failure of delivery and creating hosts of problems everywhere in South Asia. http://youtu.be/lD2_V7CB2Is

Palash Biswas on BAMCEF UNIFICATION!

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS ON NEPALI SENTIMENT, GORKHALAND, KUMAON AND GARHWAL ETC.and BAMCEF UNIFICATION! Published on Mar 19, 2013 The Himalayan Voice Cambridge, Massachusetts United States of America

BAMCEF UNIFICATION CONFERENCE 7

Published on 10 Mar 2013 ALL INDIA BAMCEF UNIFICATION CONFERENCE HELD AT Dr.B. R. AMBEDKAR BHAVAN,DADAR,MUMBAI ON 2ND AND 3RD MARCH 2013. Mr.PALASH BISWAS (JOURNALIST -KOLKATA) DELIVERING HER SPEECH. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLL-n6MrcoM http://youtu.be/oLL-n6MrcoM

Imminent Massive earthquake in the Himalayas

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS CRITICIZES GOVT FOR WORLD`S BIGGEST BLACK OUT

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS CRITICIZES GOVT FOR WORLD`S BIGGEST BLACK OUT

THE HIMALAYAN TALK: PALASH BISWAS TALKS AGAINST CASTEIST HEGEMONY IN SOUTH ASIA

Palash Biswas on Citizenship Amendment Act

Mr. PALASH BISWAS DELIVERING SPEECH AT BAMCEF PROGRAM AT NAGPUR ON 17 & 18 SEPTEMBER 2003 Sub:- CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2003 http://youtu.be/zGDfsLzxTXo

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Getting it A news photographer tastes the police baton during the Anna Hazare stir media The Daily Noose Executive, legislature, judiciary...even sullen corporates lay siege to the messenger Anuradha Raman


AP
Getting it A news photographer tastes the police baton during the Anna Hazare stir
media
The Daily Noose
Executive, legislature, judiciary...even sullen corporates lay siege to the messenger
Anuradha Raman

"Why has Team Anna's bill not called for the investigation of corruption in media and the NGO sector?"

—Salman Khurshid, Union minister for law and justice

"Channels became an extra-extended voice of the Anna Hazare march and I was blamed for not controlling them."

—Ambika Soni, Union I&B minister

"Is dabbe se bahut dhikkat hai. Kuch kariye!"

—Sharad Yadav of JD(U), referring to news channels
with the 'idiot box' metaphor, amidst applause in Parliament

***

In the climate of discontent that was August, Anna Hazare, a diminutive man with a clenched fist, not only occupied prime-time opposition space, he succeeded in uniting almost all members of Parliament against woh media ke log (those people from the media). Why were the MPs fretting and fuming? The anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna, which was demanding a strong Lokpal bill, threatened to bring within its ambit even parliamentarians. And no MP wants to be under scrutiny. So it was only understandable that the media, which was giving the anti-corruption movement extensive play, would come in for attack from the neta class.

Earlier, through 2010, it was the government which was under fire, thanks to several media exposes. The 2G spectrum scam, the CWG swindle, the Adarsh housing society controversy—all this put the government on the mat. Reports of alleged corruption in the higher judiciary also surfaced, including the funnelling of employees' provident funds from a Ghaziabad court in which senior judges are alleged to have had a part. Even army generals were subjected to media scrutiny. Corruption—and its elimination—became the buzzword.


Bringing On The Muzzle?


A bridge that collapsed before CWG; Adarsh flats

The Expose

  • 2G spectrum scam; CWG swindle; Adarsh housing society flat allotments; the Provident Fund scam involving the higher judiciary.
  • Corruption in judiciary, Army land grab.


Anna Hazare's campaign

The Fallout

  • Headlines, images of ministers, politicians, bureaucrats, corporates being booked raises the pitch.
  • The judiciary also face allegations through petitions filed in courts. Army generals also come under scanner.
  • Corruption becomes a source of national concern. Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption movement gains momentum, sending alarm bells ringing in government.

Government

  • Talks about need to regulate the media; wants to give more powers to Press Council of India
  • Goes into fire-fighting mode; attempts to put a lid on coverage; says coverage hurting India's image
  • Accuses media, TV in particular, of giving extensive and unquestioned coverage to Anna Hazare's movement
  • Prepares a confidential report recommending a ban on cross-media ownership.
  • Clears, notifies wage board suggestions for journalists despite its debilitating effect on newspaper industry


Justice Sawant

Judiciary

  • Contempt cases have been filed against journalists
  • The courts have from time to time advised the press to exercise restraint
  • Times Now directed by the Bombay HC to furnish Rs 100 crore in a defamation case in which the channel had not deliberately maligned Justice P.B. Sawant.

Statutory Bodies

  • Press Council chairman Justice Markandeya Katju wants PCI to have wider powers to cover TV channels; says he favours state-sponsored regulation of media.
  • Says he has a poor opinion of media, calls media "anti-people", says it is deliberately dividing the people on communal lines
  • Also raises questions about the intellectual abilities of journalists and says there's too much focus on entertainment news.
  • Turf war between Press Council and National Broadcast Standards Authority, headed by Justice J.S. Verma


Some 2G scam accused

Business

  • Corporates unhappy with media exposes against big business. Say it will negatively impact foreign investment.
  • Says images of corporate executives behind bars do not give positive signals about business atmosphere in India
  • Corporates blacklist media houses doing their job, cut off advertising to elicit silence and support

While Anna's anti-corruption campaign captured the public imagination, it soon became clear to politicians across all divides that a strong Lokpal bill would mean accountability, not only for the ruling dispensation at the Centre but also state governments. Clearly, for those who were at the receiving end of the Anna movement, the media had long ceased to be a messenger. To them, the messenger had become the adversary. What's more, it seemed to be calling the shots.

 

 

During the Anna stir, the media was seen to be calling the shots—the govt felt a loss of control.
 

 
So what did the UPA-II regime do when pushed to the corner, especially in the states that would soon be going to the polls and where the Lokpal issue had become a rallying point? It assured the public that the Lokpal bill would be tabled in the winter session of Parliament. But it also began considering demands from MPs to provide safeguards to the privileges they enjoy. Understandably, the politicians will resist all attempts to bring them under the ambit of the Lokpal. In fact, they have tried to turn the tables—they now want the media also to come under the purview of the Lokpal bill, which would amount to a degree of control.

At another level, the government, having failed to marshal the media to do its bidding in the Hazare agitation, began applying pressure on the press. Consider these moves:

  • A new regulatory framework for TV which prescribes a licence regime to operationalise channels
  • Freezing advertisements to newspapers in Kashmir that refused to toe the government's line
  • Scathing criticism of print and television from 'neutral' statutory bodies like the Press Council
  • The incredible Rs 100 crore defamation suit upheld by the Bombay High Court against Times Now. The channel was directed to deposit the money with the court—Rs 20 crore in cash and Rs 80 crore in bank guarantees. Its crime: it inadvertently carried the picture of a wrong judge.

Says Rajdeep Sardesai, editor in chief CNN-IBN, "I see it more as a classic example of the judiciary protecting its own. Would they have been as harsh if the individual who complained was not a retired judge? That's the question I ask."


High-pressure job A newsroom at a TV channel's office. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat)

It is no coincidence that the attacks on the media are taking place one after another. K.N. Shanth Kumar, editor of the Kannada daily Prajavani, says, "There appears to be a pattern to the manner in which the media is being targeted. The Hazare movement perhaps gave a much-needed impetus for the government to take stock and regain some of the control if felt it had lost." Sardesai agrees: "Yes, this is open season for attacking the media. At one level, the state is coopting the media, at another level, it sees the media as the 'enemy' which must be controlled, while seeking to regulate content and openly questioning the bona fides of journalists." Kumar Ketkar, editor of Marathi newspaper Divya Marathi, voices the common line of defiance: "There could be efforts made to bamboozle the press, like freezing advertisements or the untenable defamation suit, but why should the media be afraid?" But the sense of siege is real.

There are things happening behind the scenes too. The Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, on the I&B ministry's directions, has prepared a detailed report on cross-media holdings in the industry and the need to tamp down on it. Earlier, the TRAI had suggested similar restrictions. Checking the overwhelming influence of some media houses and encouraging competition is the main thrust of the report, which is yet to be made public. I&B ministry officials also reveal that a senior journalist was asked to prepare a note for the empowered group of ministers (GoM) on media—to gauge media reactions to a slew of government proposals. It covered issues such as regulation versus self-regulation, empowerment of the Press Council to include television, paid news and restrictions on cross-media holdings.

Another Side Of Operation Rein-In: The first tentative step taken by the government was to amend the Press and Registration of Books and Publications Act of 1867. It was approved by the cabinet in early March. There were immediate concerns in the media over some provisions meant to muzzle the press. Sweeping powers were to be given to the district magistrate to suspend publication of a periodical and imprisonment of its functionaries for violating the law.

Then came the G.R. Majithia Wage Board recommendations, notified by the labour ministry last week. Many newspapers say they would suffer if the revised salaries were to be implemented. Some publications, like Ananda Bazaar Patrika and Printers (Mysore) Private Limited (publishers of Deccan Herald and Prajavani), have moved court. The revised pay structure will substantially increase basic salaries.

 

 

One of the most sweeping attacks on the media and newspersons came from Justice Katju.
 

 
Jacob Mathew, executive editor of Malayala Manorama, says, "Unlike in the past where recommendations were discussed with the stakeholders and were reasonable, this time it was passed without any discussions. The cabinet has approved it and there is no concern expressed by the government." Shanth Kumar says, "Some newspapers would be wiped out if the wage board recommendations were implemented."

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a senior journalist and author of Media Ethics: Truth, Fairness and Objectivity, puts the dilemma of the press in perspective. "Prior to 2009, it was boomtime. Publications got advertisements from the government and the corporate sector and businesses flourished. After the recession, there is a squeeze everywhere and the media is vulnerable. It becomes easier for the government to squeeze it."

A New Licence Regime: Much has been written about the new regulatory regime for broadcasters. Ambika Soni, I&B minister, had stated that channels were due for a licence renewal: this offered scope for new regulations to be brought in. The government increased the eligibility cap: the required net worth was raised from Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 5 crore for entertainment channels and from Rs 3 crore to Rs 20 crore for news channels. So it was clear who the government wanted to rein in—the news channels, of course. Besides, some of the conditions set are such that renewal will be allowed only if the channels haven't violated the programme code more than five times. This move towards stringency can only increase scope for control, though the minister had at one time said such decisions would be taken in consultation with self-regulatory bodies.

"Self-regulation needs to be given some time. This is the best time to let the self-regulation experiment work." Arnab Goswami, Times Now
"One feels that the media is being targeted. The govt should admit it's being unreasonable on the wage hike." Jacob Mathew, Malayala Manorama

"The action against Times Now is unfair. But I don't really think the media is under any kind of concerted attack." Kumar Ketkar, Divya Marathi
"Self-regulation of media should widen its scope to include members of civil society, academia and law." Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN-IBN

"There's a sense of aggression being displayed by govt and other pillars of democracy, which is not healthy." Sanjay Gupta, Dainik Jagran
"We are accountable to our readers. Our ultimate litmus test is the reader and it's important not to lose sight of him." K.N. Shanth Kumar, Prajavani

The PCI attack: When Justice Markandeya Katju took over as the new Press Council chairman, he was chosen unanimously by a committee represented by the Vice-President of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and a Press Council member. Justice Katju was regarded as a champion of press freedom. But his first few comments—that most journalists didn't measure up—were seen as too shrill. Where was the pressing need for such a sharp outburst? Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Times Now, says, "Please also credit us for some of the stories we do. There are very ordinary, simple people who get an opportunity to speak on our channels."

Regulation vs Self-Regulation: That the media requires to be regulated is not in question. That it will be regulated by the stakeholders themselves is also absurd. So the ambit of regulating the media needs to be widened to include cross-sections of society, on the lines of Ofcom of Britain, with the powers to impose hefty penalties in case of serious transgressions. Existing bodies like the Press Council, which took more than a year to publicise a report on the paid news scandal, clearly have to display more spunk in naming and shaming publications that overstep the line. But unlike the judiciary or the legislature, the media is governed very much by the laws of the land and can be hauled up under the Officials Secrets Act, for criminal defamation, for contempt of courts etc. It's not unregulated.

Nobody is blind to the fact that a cosy, yet blow-hot-blow-cold relationship exists between media, corporates and the government. Editors in Mumbai are concerned about the "larger climate" in which the media is being increasingly viewed as an intruder at best and a self-serving unaccountable commercial institution at worst. But most journalists and editors believe they work in "an undefined framework", where the three estates identified in the Constitution enjoy certain rights, privileges and immunities, but not the press. As Dr Aroon Tikekar, former editor and presently president of The Asiatic Society, says, "Judges and elected representatives can claim privileges, and therefore breach of privilege or contempt of court. But why has there been no attempt to codify these privileges so that journalists know where the line is?" However, he says the media has to be responsible and fair. "When the media fails to evolve its own code of conduct, the first casualty is its impact on society...if the media starts enjoying power without responsibility, it can be a menace to all concerned. That's why a heavy burden rests on the ethics and judgement of the individual journalist and the policy of the organisation he/she belongs to."



By Anuradha Raman with Smruti Koppikar in Mumbai


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COMMENTS


media
Rs 100 cr in damages for a wrong photo
Smruti Koppikar

media
Some news channels and newspapers freely outed the 'Bhanwari tapes'
Sanjay Bohra

opinion poll
Press Council chairman Justice Markandey Katju's labelling of the Indian media as "anti-people" has few takers among news consumers
MDRA

opinion
The media has to accept that a regulatory mechanism has become necessary. This is best done from within before outside forces interfere
T.J.S. George


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