ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Media Watch : Unnecessary Controversy

The Indian media, with all its failings - its editorial policies, or lack of them, its employment policies - it still, perhaps remains the best placed to reflect developments in India's civil society.

The controversy – entirely unnecessary – that was started with no apparent reason by minister of information and broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj has now been given a decent burial. She now tells us that there is no need to meddle with the print media policy as it stands today and as was defined way back in 1955. The matter was apparently thrashed out in a discussion with prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who must have told her that no national ‘debate’ is necessary and to leave the print media alone. But by the time she had come out with a clear statement of intent she had succeeded in creating an uproar in the print media. Hari Jai Singh editor of The Tribune in a lengthy edit page article lambasted the very concept of letting foreigners invest in India in newspapers and happily the matter should now be considered closed.

But how responsible is the Indian print media? In an earlier column it was pointed out that even dailies like The Times of India dismissed the death of Bharat Ratna C Subramaniam in one paragraph. In contrast newspapers vied with each other to give plenty of column space to the death of a Mumbai police dog by name Zanjeer which had been useful in sniffing out RDX and other bomb materials during the 1992 riots. The Mumbai police gave their pet dog a royal funeral complete with sounding of the last post. Presuming that makes a good ‘human’ interest story, is a police dog more newsworthy than a Bharat Ratna? What have we come to? The place of journalists in the current scenario, incidentally, was discussed in considerable detail at the 12th biennial national conference of the National Union of Journalists (India) held at Surajkund, near Delhi in the first week of November. What was significant about it – like Sherlock Holmes’ dog that did not bark – was the fact that not a single newspaper published an account of the conference. It was left to the RSS weekly Organiser (November 6-19) to tell the world what happened at Surajkund.

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