Category Archives: For the record

Out of 180 countries in the world, only 40 have worse media freedom than India. And all South Asian countries are ahead of us except Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Media freedom in India has slipped a further two points to 140 and is back at 2014 levels when Narendra Modi‘s government took charge. India is behind Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF). The only…

Pinch yourself: BJP’s Mysore candidate Pratap Simha—a well-read newspaper columnist—had taken out a pre-publication gag order against 49 media organisations two months before “sex audio” went viral today

*** The BJP candidate for the Bangalore South constituency in the 2019 general elections Tejasvi Surya hit national headlines on March 29 when he secured an ex-parte temporary injunction against 49 media organisations from a Bangalore court, after allegations of sexual assault and misbehaviour against him began doing the rounds on social media. After editorials in The Indian…

EC’s poll code bars ‘The Times of India’ from displaying an interview with Narendra Modi. But the rule does not apply to ‘Vijaya Vani’ and ‘Dighvijaya News’, the Kannada newspaper and TV channel owned by former BJP MP Vijay Sankeshwar.

The Times of India has an “interview” with prime minister Narendra Modi on the eve of the second phase of #GeneralElections2019, but it is only available in hard copy, in the print editions of the newspaper. On its website, ToI has blanked out the PM’s interview with the line: “In view of the 48-hour silence…

“We have very few checks and balances. Almost none. That is a dangerous, and depressing, situation to be in”: Tony Joseph, author of the most important book ever written by an Indian journalist

There was a time when young journalists in Bombay used to hear, in awe, that Aveek Sarkar, the paterfamilias of the Anandabazar Patrika (ABP) group, secretly considered Tony Joseph as the “ideal journalist”. That was high praise coming from the sophisticated owner of Anandabazar Patrika, Business Standard, and The Telegraph newspapers, and Sunday, Business World, and Sports World magazines.…

The thread that ties the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, a BBC correspondent posted in India, and the lifeblood of good journalists, Old Monk rum

Of the hundreds of thousands of people who have peered into this well in Amritsar over the last 100 years—a mandatory patriotic pause on the way to (or back from) the more spiritual experience next door at The Golden Temple—few have been more moved than a journalist who served three years in India. Justin Rowlatt,…

How N. Ram’s reporting of the #Rafale scandal in ‘The Hindu’ sped across the digital world and into the phones of readers before the Narendra Modi government could put its pants on

Behind the investigation of India’s two biggest defence scandals—the Bofors deal under Rajiv Gandhi and the Rafale deal under Narendra Modi—is one common newspaper and one common byline, The Hindu and N. Ram. But with one big difference: the first scandal was reported when hard-copy, ink-and-paper journalism was king; the latter in the digital age, when…

‘Imphal Free Press’ editor demands Rs one crore “reparation” for TV journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem for loss of reputation, health, income—and a monumental miscarriage of justice

Kishorchandra Wangkhem, the Manipur cable news TV journalist who was jailed in November 2018 for 12 months under the National Security Act (NSA) for Facebook posts that mocked the state’s chief minister, has been ordered to be released. To no one’s surprise, Wangkhem’s incarceration on bogus charges was received coolly by mainland Indian journalists and…

‘Facebook Live’: 14 journalists from six countries on three continents: Global Digital Conversation on Media Freedom

14 journalists from six countries on three continents join in a six-hour ‘Facebook Live’ global conversation on media freedom. The participants: Alan Rusbridger; Amantha Perera; Abhinandan Sekhri; David Fahrenthold; Faith Sidlow; Ian Jack; Ivor Gaber; Marie Elisabeth Muller; Namrata Sharma; Pratik Sinha; Richard Sambrook; Vinod K. Jose. The event is hosted by Asian College of…

When Aveek Sarkar and Vir Sanghvi met a scandal-ridden Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, they could ask 208 questions and supplementaries, including one, ahem, on #NewIndia. That is called an “interview”, Narendra Modi and PMO please note.

  *** “In the first year of his prime ministership, Rajiv Gandhi was easily accessible to the press and gave candid, free-wheeling interviews. By the second year the candour was beginning to wear thin. And by the time the scandals surrounding his friends and the regime surfaced, he had retreated into his shell.” Thus begins…

100 years ago, today, the greatest Editor-in-Chief to have walked this planet had a dream, an epiphany—in the home of the owner of ‘The Hindu’—that changed India’s course

One hundred years ago, today, India’s struggle for independence from the British took a decisive and inspired turn, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had a dream that would catapult him towards ‘Mahatma’-hood. On March 18, 1919, Gandhi met C.Rajagopalachari in the City that used to be known as Madras, in a home on Cathedral Road that…

You are what you watch: Gujaratis consume the least amount of TV news in India; Assamese the most. To no one’s surprise, Malayalees catch a lot.

Indians spend a little over 30 minutes of their day, on average, watching news on television, according to the 2018 yearbook of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Viewers in the northeastern states watch nearly twice as much news as Gujaratis. Although news accounts for just 7% of total TV viewership, news channels attract more…

100% more editorials, 225% more opinion pieces: How Pothan Joseph’s ‘Dawn’ beat Pothan Joseph’s ‘Deccan Herald’ 77-49 and demonstrated the true role of a newspaper as a conscience-keeper

*** The hollowing out of Indian news media—from being serious, agenda-setting, conscience-keepers, to frothy, gutless, market-driven beasts without a soul—is all too obvious, but it was never more apparent than during the recent India-Pakistan kerfuffle. As the two nuclear powers peered into the abyss, there was a barely a commentary in any part of the…

In Meghalaya, an Editor’s posts on Facebook prove costly as she fights (and loses) a contempt of court notice against ‘The Shillong Times’ in three months flat

*** The editor and publisher of The Shillong Times, a well-regarded newspaper from Meghalaya established two years before India became independent, have been held guilty of contempt of court in an extraordinary case that has implications for freedom of expression enjoyed by mainstream and social media voices across the country. The Meghalaya High Court rejected the…

Listening to Vineet Jain’s and Rahul Joshi’s cringe-worthy speeches welcoming Narendra Modi, you are left with only one doubt: was the text approved by the Prime Minister’s Office or its propaganda division, Niti Aayog?

“After #Pulwama, the Indian media proves it is the BJP’s propaganda machine“ This was the headline of an article in the Washington Post, on March 4, by two researchers of The Polis Project, who looked at the “contradictory, biased, incendiary and uncorroborated” reports in a number of media vehicles including India Today, NDTV, News 18, The…

Usually journalists try to enter politics during elections, but when a first-class, four-time Member of Parliament decides to return to journalism, it is news

When elections loom into view, journalists with an eye on the main chance, fancy a stint in politics. But in Odisha, the four-time Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Tathagata Sathpathy, a stand-out parliamentarian, has taken the opposite route: back to journalism. Satpathy, owner and editor of the well-regarded Odia newspaper Dharitri, and its sister English…

“I keep hearing about the problems media organisations and journalists have undergone [in the Modi era], but the truth is I never faced one: Mukund Padmanabhan on editing ‘The Hindu’

The change of editorship at Indian media houses is (usually) a sinister cloak-and-dagger affair, done in the dead of night sans any grace. Publishers rarely ever feel the need to inform readers why Editor X has left or why Editor Y has come in. Not so, The Hindu. Three months ago, the “Mountroad Mahavishnu” announced…

Former ‘Science Today’ editor Mukul Sharma, the prose and puzzle whiz who found Satyajit Ray’s kisses “unconvincing” and counted the golden flecks in Rakhee’s eyes, is no more.

Indian Journalism Review records with regret the passing of Mukul Sharma, the former editor of Science Today magazine (and its later version 2001), who wrote the scintillating “Mind Sport” column in now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India. He was 69. Mukul Sharma, who lived in Gurgaon, near Delhi, was previously married to the film maker Aparna Sen. The…

A masterclass in grace, gratitude and decency from ‘The Hindu’ on how to bid goodbye to an outgoing employee

Decency is not a virtue much in demand in Indian newsrooms, where the mercenary and the mercantile are valued higher. But there is always the rare exception. The Hindu gives its Editor Mukund Padmanabhan (in picture, above) a first-class sendoff upon his retirement, with a graceful (and grateful) front-page acknowledgement of services rendered by him…

Kashmir’s small English dailies show more balance and sobriety than mainland India’s gung-ho newspapers in putting out the casualty figure in the air strikes on Pakistan

Verification is a vital function of the news media, especially when the reader-viewer-surfer is exposed to relentless propaganda via electronic and social media. India’s air strike on Pakistan on February 26 posed a test of the newspapers and television against the backdrop of opposing claims made by the two countries. As if to prove the…

How India’s newspapers are covering Narendra Modi’s transformation—from a ‘Nero’ who was fiddling when Gujarat was burning, to a ‘Narcissus’ who was filming when CRPF jawans were dying

“Speaking truth to power” is said to be the raison d’être of journalism. “Comforting the afflicted; afflicting the comfortable,” is another variation of it. How well Indian media is performing those duties is evident on the front pages of today’s mainline dailies. On February 14, the day of the deadliest attack on Indian paramilitary forces…